The Mesquite tree

The Mesquite Tree

Last updated on January 5th, 2023 at 10:40 am


Is the Mesquite tree (Prosopis glandulosa) or is it a large bush?  In its natural habitat, it is a desert bush that needs little water and tolerates poor soils.  It will lose its leaves in winter (deciduous) but will always bounce back right after the last freeze.  Most folks look for the Mesquite to leaf out as a sign that we will not have any more freezes.  Of course, only Mother Nature knows for sure….right?

The Honey Mesquite Tree
Honey Mesquite Tree early foliage

Train Your Mesquite bush into a tree.

The Mesquite bush can easily be trained to look like a tree.  Removing the bottom suckers and other smaller limbs at the bottom will grow into a nice medium-sized tree about 15 – 20ft. tall.  It does have vicious thorns that will stop anyone from climbing its branches. The main trunk and a few of the bottom branches will typically not produce these thorns.

It also produces large edible sweet seed pods.  During the early and mid-summer, the pods are a dark green color but towards the end of summer or early fall, the pods will turn a light brown almost egg-white color.  This is the best time to pick and suck out the juice from these pods. Hard seeds will not produce flavor but the softer ones will.   Picking them just before they fall is the best time to harvest them.

Mesquite Tree Pods
The pods from the Honey Mesquite Tree. These pods are edible and have a sweet taste.


The Mesquite Tree

The Mesquite thrives in the lower elevations of Arizona, Colorado, California, Louisiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas Utah, and of course New Mexico.  The Honey Mesquite tree photo is below.


The Honey Mesquite Tree


The most common is the Honey Mesquite. There are many types of Mesquite Trees.  (Prosopis-glandulosa) A photo is shown above.

Does it have thorns?

Yes, it does.  But not the thornless Chilean Mesquite more about this Mesquite at the end of this post.  The honey mesquite tree does have very large vicious thorns on most of the large and smaller branches.  However, the trunk of the honey Mesquite rarely has them. I would not dare attempt to climb this tree!  It is a great tree for desert or Xeriscape landscaping ideas.


Thorns on Mesquite tree
Honey Mesquite Tree Thorns

The Leslie Roy Mesquite Tree

This tree is a hybrid cross-pollinated by Civano or Monrovia Nursery it is a native Mesquite (Prosopis velutina) and the thornless Chilean Mesquite.  A very good tree for the southwest as it provides shade for large or small-yard desert landscapes.  It will grow to about 30ft. tall and about 20ft. wide.  It is drought tolerant but requires more water than the true mesquite tree.  It also produces a white creamy flower.

Mesquite Tree

The Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis Velutina)

The picture below is very similar to the Honey Mesquite.  The foliage is much shorter and it too tolerates poor soil and drought conditions.

Velvet mesquite
Credit Photo – By Sue in az (Own work) [GFDL (

The Chilean Mesquite Tree

The Chilean Mesquite also called a thornless Mesquite (Prosopis chilensis) does very well in the southwestern United States. Drought tolerant and perfect for xeriscape and rock gardens.  It will grow to about 40 ft. tall and 40ft wide. Learn more about the Chilean Mesquite Tree.

Chilean Mesquite Tree

Mesquite Tree Problems

Like many trees, they are susceptible to borers and diseases.  Larvae borers will drill a hole in the upper limbs and the main trunk.  The sap from these holes will ooze out a sticky dark substance.  Use a borer systemic insecticide to kill the borer.  Slime flux disease will also attack the tree but there is no cure for this disease, however, trimming off the dead or diseased limb will help in recovery.

Read more about Insects and diseases on trees.

The USDA Hardiness Zone: 7 – 9


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7 years ago

As always, thanks for the usefull infirmation. Love this place…

Kathy frazier
Kathy frazier
1 year ago

Wonderful info. Thank you!
Do any of the mesquites have a smaller root system for planting near a cistern?

Paul Guzman
1 year ago
Reply to  Kathy frazier

Hello Kathy. Mesquite trees will have a large root system. Especially the Chilean Mesquite. The one with the shortest root system is the “Leslie Roy” Mesquite mentioned in this article. It is important to note most trees’ root systems will get as wide as the tree itself.

Bobbie Novak
Bobbie Novak
8 months ago

Really great article. My Leslie Roy is like a weed & I’m trying to train her, Really messy pods. My honey mesquite is sick, gumosis and I’m facing replacement. She’s definitely trying to fight but I need the ground insecticide you’d recommend for the borer issues. I honestly would rather try fighting to save her for at least this yr vs just ripping out and starting over. I need to treat the ground regardless.

Paul Guzman
8 months ago
Reply to  Bobbie Novak

You need Bayer advanced Borer Control. Borers are a real pain in the neck for all gardeners. Borers come from the larval stages of beetles and moths. The most common in the U.S. is the Emerald Ash Borer. Use Bayer Advanced borer control or go organic and use Beneficial nematodes. More information on insects and diseases here.

8 months ago

i would love to plant a leslie roy mesquite in our small patio for shade, but worry about what i read is mesquite’s invasive root system. is it ok to plant a mesquite 25′ from my house? will it cause problems to my old clay pipes? thx!

Paul Guzman
7 months ago
Reply to  vanessa

Yes, the Leslie Roy Mesquite grows about 25′ tall and wide. This means the root system will spread out 25′. Make it 30′ just to be sure. More about Mesquite Trees.

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