Spiny tree with short, forking trunk, open, spreading crown of crooked branches, and finely hairy or velvety foliage, twigs, and pods. Under favorable conditions it sometimes grows as high as 30 feet, but in drier areas it is a spreading shrub with long, thick roots which people sometimes dig up for fuel. Leaves are alternate, deciduous, with long stems, made up of 12–20 leaflets about 2 inches long and 1/4 inch wide, which are again divided into smaller leaflets. All are smooth, dark green, and linear. The flower stem is 3 inches long or more, containing numerous cream-colored flowers that honeybees seem to prefer. The long, white stamens are numerous, turning yellow with age. The beans, up to 8 inches long, gradually turn yellow and mature in August and September. They contain about 25 percent sugar and are a valuable livestock food.
The medium-sized tree mesquite of central and southern Arizona, Velvet Mesquite reaches larger size than related species. The wood is used for fenceposts and novelties and is one of the best in the desert for fuel; even the large, deep taproots are grubbed up for that use. Southwestern Indians prepared meal and cakes from the sweet pods and livestock browse them, disseminating the seeds. Bees produce a fragrant honey from mesquites.
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