Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
January, 2005
Regional Report

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This new mesquite tree provides a lovely shade canopy. (Photo courtesy of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery.)

New Mesquite Tree

Properly placed shade trees can save you a bundle on energy bills. I'm a fan of the graceful, arching canopies that mesquite trees lend to the landscape. The deep green foliage, craggy bark, and multi-trunked growth habit add color, texture, and structural interest. The trees are havens for all sorts of bird life, too. Mesquites have sometimes received a bad rep because of their propensity to blow over in windstorms, however, this is often the result of well-meaning humans applying more water than the trees need.

Mesquite trees grow really quickly with even modest amounts of water. Overwatering promotes a top-heavy tree that hasn't had time to develop a strong supporting root system. Strong winds swoop beneath the canopy and literally lift such trees out of the ground. After summer monsoon thunderstorms, it's common to see mesquites tipped over along roadways and in yards where winds whipped through.

New, Improved Hybrid
Now, a new hybrid mesquite has arrived in the desert plant palette to address this problem. Prosopis x Phoenix is grafted from two mesquites: a thornless Chilean mesquite (Phoenix) and Prosopis juliflora, an Arizona native mesquite used as a rootstock because of its strong root system. In addition to anchoring the tree, this rootstock provides the added benefit of slowing down the rate of foliage growth, so the tree doesn't become top-heavy.

Ron Gass, plantsman extraordinaire and owner of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, noticed that native mesquites were less likely to tip over during windstorms, and that provided the idea for the graft. Mountain States has been testing the tree for years, and it's now available to the public.

The mature Prosopis x Phoenix grows to 30 feet tall and wide. It is cold hardy to 15 degrees F, and takes full sun and minimal water. If you're looking for an attractive, desert-adapted tree for your landscape, consider this terrific new mesquite.

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