Dessert is a big part of the USA and finding appropriate trees for a house in Arizona can be tricky. The velvet mesquite tree is one of the few desert grassland native trees.
How Does the Plant Look Like?
The mesquite resembles a large shrub or it can be categorized as a medium size tree that is native to North America. It is extremely tolerant to heat and does not mind long periods of draught. It thrives in full sun or partial shade and it loves areas like Arizona.
This tree is perfect for water saving communities as it requires very rare watering sessions. Californians and Arizonians are crazy about this tree as it blends well in local gardens and helps families save water.
Velvet Mesquite Tree Characteristics
Believe it or not, this tree is in fact a legume. To be honest, it does not look like a classic bean plant but it produces similar pods which are edible. These pods, together with the leaves have a high protein content and can act as a perfect cattle fodder.
Being a legume, it also helps fix nitrogen in the soil. This can prove beneficial in poor desert soils. It can really help other garden plants live a better life.
It is a slow growing plant and it will develop a sturdy trunk and many branches. The wood is very appreciated by furniture makers because of the various shades it has and the grain. The tree can reach a height of about 36 feet.
The velvet tree has pinnate leaves, covered with small fine grey hairs. It blooms once a year and it has sweet scented blooms. It attracts bees, so be sure that you are a bee lover.
The tree can live up to 150 years, so it is important to place it in a place where it can develop and grow freely. Keep in mind that this is a dessert tree, so plant it in well-drained soil, in full sun.
Choose an area with alkaline soil, low nutrients and low humidity. Occasional frost is acceptable, as the tree can resist un to 10 degrees F. In the first five years it requires watering during very hot periods. This will help the tree develop a strong root system and it will allow it to reach adulthood.
Adult trees require occasional watering in case of severe draught – 3 to 5 weeks with no rain. Do not overwater it. Boggy soil and high humidity will allow fungus to develop on the roots and the tree will die.
Another parasite is mistletoe. This can attach to branches and it will steal nutrients from the velvet mesquite tree. This diminishes the chances of the tree to feed itself and can lead to death.
Can Mesquite be Grown from Cuttings
Like many other mesquite varieties, the velvet one can be multiplied using seeds, grafts and cuttings. Grafts are the usual choice in the gardening industry, because the rate of success is high.
To propagate via cutting be sure to choose young wood parts. These have the highs chance to be successful and you will end up with a genetic clone of the parent tree.
By multiplying by seeds, you can lose many of the genetic traits of the original parent tree. Studies have shown that mesquite trees have a very high genetic variability from generation to generation: up to 70%.
To ensure the cutting develop roots it is mandatory to use rooting hormone. Choose the juvenile wood, remove a terminal stem and then dip the cut end in the hormone.
Place the cuttings in a container filled with sand and peat moss. Place the container in an area that receives sunlight and has a temperature of minimum 60 F.
Keep the soil in the container moist and in a few week, you will notice new leaves beginning to appear. When the cutting has rooted and has new leaves you can transplant the baby tree in the garden. In the first year you must keep a close eye on the baby mesquite tree.