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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - October 08, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: When is Texas mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) mature
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can you tell me the life cycle for the native Texas mesquite? I have found one source that says it matures in 2-5 years, but no other sources confirm this. We are hoping to classify mesquite flooring as a rapidly renewable building material but need to know if it's life cycle is 10 years or less. thanks

ANSWER:

Prosopis glandulosa (honey mesquite) generally begins to produce seeds by three years of age according to Information from the US Forest Service (see under "Botanical and Ecological Characteristics"). This article also states that:

"Honey mesquite plants can sprout from numerous perennial dormant buds located along rhizomes or the upper part of the root....When aboveground growth is damaged or killed, new sprouts arise from the bud zone. If aboveground growth is destroyed or damaged during a dormant period, sprouts arise the following spring and often flower during their first growing season. If aboveground growth is damaged during the wet part of the growing season when root carbohydrate levels are high, plants resprout rapidly but do not flower until the following growing season. If destroyed during the dry portion of the growing season when root carbohydrate levels are low, sprouting is delayed or slow, sometimes for 3 to 5 years."

This ability, plus its tolerance to drought conditions, results in different growth forms and the article recognizes three forms:

"1) a single-stemmed tree reaching 20 to 40 feet (6-12 m) in height, with crooked, drooping branches, 2) an erect, multiple-stemmed bush or small tree, often 10 to 15 feet (3-4.6 m) tall, and 3) a decumbent or running bush found on deep sandy soils."

For your purposes, you are probably most interested in the first growth form and the fastest growth possible. The single-stemmed form will depend on trees that aren't injured and the growth rate will depend on soil type and available moisture.

There are many ranchers out there who would readily agree that mesquite is too rapidly renewable. They have been trying to get rid of it for years!

 

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