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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Thursday - January 14, 2010

From: Cedar Hill, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants
Title: Killing mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) with propane torch
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Can I kill mesquite with intense fire, such as a 1.2 million BTU propane torch? I know mesquite bounces back from cutting at the soil line. The trees are in Elgin. Thanks

ANSWER:

The US Forest Service describes the effect of fire on Prosopis glandulosa (honey mesquite).  Range fires can reduce the mesquite canopy but usually does not kill them.  Around 90% of the trees survive to resprout from the roots or crowns. The report also shows that using a propane burner at high temperature (>780 degrees F) was successful in killing 100% of young trees (<1.5 years old).  Burning after treating with herbicide (2,4,5-T) resulted in mortality in 24-32% of the trees that had been top-killed by the application as long as four years before.  The explanation for the high percentage of mortality was the fuel provided by the dead material on the treated trees that increased the fire intensity.

The Mesquite Savanna Project at the Vernon Texas A&M station uses herbicides and prescribed burns to manage the mesquite growth form so that there is less foliage on the trees giving grass a better chance of growing beneath the trees.

You might also be interested in reading How to Beat Mesquite from Texas A&M Brush Busters.

Finally, I consulted the Wildflower Center's ecologist, Dr. Mark Simmons, and he said that he hadn't had any experience using propane torches on mesquite. He suspects, however, that there would be meristematic tissue safe below the surface that would allow resprouting. He uses a propane torch for weed control and many perennial herbaceous weeds (including grasses) can resprout after treatment. He thought it certainly would be worth trying but he isn't optimistic that is going to kill all your mesquite.

 

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