SPECIES: Prosopis glandulosa
Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. glandulosa honey mesquite
Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. prostrata Burkart honey mesquite
Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. torreyana (L. Benson) M.C. Johnston western honey mesquite
Little information is available regarding the ecology of P. glandulosa var. prostrata. In this species summary, "honey mesquite" refers to the species, while the "typical variety" and "western honey mesquite" refer to Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa and Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. torreyana, respectively.
Several hybrids have been reported [20,91,95]. Honey mesquite × western honey mesquite intermediates occur in western Texas and New Mexico, and western honey mesquite × velvet mesquite (Prosopis velutina) hybrids occur in Arizona, Sonora, and Baja California .
The typical variety of honey mesquite is distributed from southwestern Kansas, western Oklahoma, and Louisiana, and most of Texas west to New Mexico and south to Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, and Coahuila, Mexico [74,101,116]. Western honey mesquite occurs in western Texas, southern New Mexico, southeastern and western Arizona, extreme southwestern Utah, southern Nevada, southern California, and northern Mexico [92,111]. Prosopis glandulosa var. prostrata occurs in Texas .
Before the introduction of livestock by European settlers, the geographic ranges of North American mesquites were probably more distinct. Since livestock effectively disperse the seeds, mesquites have increased their abundance across the Southwest since settlement times, and many species' ranges have changed [92,100]. The ranges of the typical variety of honey mesquite and western honey mesquite overlap in western Texas, eastern New Mexico, and northeastern Mexico , but for the most part honey mesquite occurs east of the Pecos River, while western honey mesquite is more prevalent west of the Pecos River [91,95]. Along the Rio Grande River near El Paso, Texas, honey mesquite, western honey mesquite, and velvet mesquite all occur together . Western honey mesquite is the most common mesquite in the Trans-Pecos Region of Texas . Isolated populations of the typical variety occur in southeastern Arizona, southern California, and near Shreveport Louisiana, all thought to be introductions, possibly from livestock-dispersed seed along railways or stage routes, or by other human introductions [20,91,92,95]. Similar isolated populations of western honey mesquite occur in the San Joaquin Valley, California [21,89].ECOSYSTEMS :
Rio Grande Plains of southwestern Texas: Honey mesquite is often codominant with mixed-brush species like huisachillo (Acacia tortuosa), blackbrush acacia (Acacia rigidula), guajillo (Acacia berlandieri), spiny hackberry (Celtis pallida), lotebush, desert yaupon (Schaefferia cuneifolia), lime pricklyash, Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), and bluewood. Common grasses include little bluestem, Texas grama (Bouteloua rigidiseta), yellow foxtail (Setaria geniculata), bristle grass (Setaria spp.), hooded windmill grass (Chloris cucullata), thin paspalum (Paspalum setaceum), and buffalograss (Buchloe dactyloides) [13,28,71,85,151]. Brown  describes communities in small basins in the Rio Grande area where honey mesquite, longleaf ephedra (Ephedra trifurca), and soaptree yucca (Yucca elata) are the dominant shrubs and the understory is composed of buffalograss and dropseed grasses. These communities are frequently located around the edge of ancient lake beds.
Western Texas and New Mexico: Honey mesquite and western honey mesquite are often associated with more xeric species, including allthorn (Koeberlimia spinosa), Gregg catclaw (Acacia greggii), fourwing saltbush (Atriplex canescens), tarbush (Flourensia cernua), and catclaw mimosa (Mimosa biuncifera). Associated grasses include black grama (Bouteloua eriopoda), sideoats grama (B. curtipendula), mesa dropseed (Sporobolus flexuosus), threeawns (Aristida spp.), burro grass (Scleropogon brevifolius), tobosagrass (Pleuraphis mutica), and curlymesquite (Hilaria belangeri) [37,85,151].
Edwards Plateau of central Texas: Honey mesquite is often part of a brushy overstory composed of Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei), redberry juniper (J. pinchotii), Texas persimmon, live oak (Q. virginiana), sandpaper oak (Q. pungens. var. vaseyana), or post oak (Q. stellata) [71,151]. Grasses in these communities include curly mesquite, threeawns, sideoats grama, hairy tridens (Erinoneuron pilosum), tussock grass, red grama (Bouteloua trifida), and sedges (Carex spp.) .
High Plains of northwestern Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle: These areas were once characteristically free of trees and shrubs, but honey mesquite now dominates many areas. Brush associates include lotebush, agarito (Berberis trifoliolata), plains prickly-pear (Opuntia polyacantha), soapweed yucca (Yucca glauca), cholla (Opuntia spp.), and redberry juniper. Associated grasses include buffalograss, sideoats grama, tobosagrass, and little bluestem [71,85,151].
East-central Texas: Honey mesquite is often found in post oak (Quercus stellata) savannas. Common associates in these savannas include blackjack oak (Q. marilandica), water oak (Q. nigra), sugarberry (Celtis laevigata), honey-locust (Gleditsia triacanthos), hawthorn (Crataegus spp.), common persimmon (Diospyros virginiana), eastern redcedar (Juniperus virginiana), gum bumelia (Bumelia lanuginosa), skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata), and winged elm (Ulmus alata) .
Western honey mesquite communities: Drainageways in the Mojave and Sonoran deserts are the primary habitat for western honey mesquite. In these habitats western honey mesquite is commonly associated with quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis), palo verde (Cercidium floridum), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), and Goodding willow (Salix gooddingii) [32,127,131,145]. More information is provided in "Vegetation types" below.
Riparian habitats: Honey mesquite often occurs in riparian habitats in either pure stands or mixed with other species. Pure stands typically are many-aged and occur along the outer floodplain as honey mesquite is not particularly flood tolerant . In riparian honey mesquite communities, often called bosques, the plants' growth form is more arborescent, growing up to approximately 50 feet (15 m) tall . In riparian woodlands dominated by junipers, oaks, Texas persimmon, netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata), cedar-elm (Ulmus crassifolia), or Berlandier ash (Fraxinus berlandiearana), honey mesquite is often scattered with densities ranging from 12 to 24 plants per acre (30-60/ha.) [175,183,184].
Vegetation types: Classifications describing plant communities in which the typical variety of honey mesquite is a dominant species are:Oklahoma [49,167]
Classifications describing plant communities in which western honey mesquite is a dominant species are:Arizona [38,136]
The following classifications do not specify variety in their community descriptions:Arizona 
Henrickson and Johnston  classified vegetation of the "Chihuahuan Desert region" into 16 community types. Honey mesquite (variety not specified) was a component in 5 of these communities. These communities are listed below with their estimated area and common associates.
|Community type||Estimated area of the Chihuahuan Desert region||Common associates|
|Larrea scrub||40%||tarbush, viscid acacia (Acacia neovernicosa), leucophyllum (Leucophyllum spp.), smooth mesquite (Prosopis laevigata), small-leaf geiger tree (Cordia parviflora), and Gregg catclaw|
|Mixed desert scrub||25%||mosaic with no single species dominant over a large area|
|Sand dune scrub||1%||creosotebush (Larrea tridentata), smoke tree (Psorothamnus scoparius), sand sagebrush (Artemisia filifolia), and soaptree yucca|
|Prosopis-Atriplex scrub||5%||smooth mesquite, fourwing saltbush, Berlandier's wolfberry (Lycium berlandieri, L. torreyi), pale wolfberry (L. pallidum), lotebush, tree cholla (Opuntia imbricata), candle cholla (O. kleiniae), prickly-pears (Opuntia spp.), rough century plant (Agave scabra), Trans-Pecos desert goldenrod (Xylothamia triantha), creosotebush, tarbush, dropseed grasses, and muhly grasses (Muhlenbergia spp.)|
|Riparian woodland||1%||Goodding willow, other willows (Salix spp.) desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), screwbean mesquite (P. pubescens), velvet ash (Fraxinus velutina), Fremont cottonwood (Populus fremontii), mule's fat (Baccharis salicifolia), common reed (Phragmites australis), saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima), and giant reed (Arundo donax)|
Honey mesquite's root system is well adapted to dry climates (during and shortly after seedling establishment, the rate of root growth exceeds that of shoot growth ). Honey mesquite is a facultative phreatophyte which extracts moisture from a large volume of soil through a well-developed root system [8,81,171]. Honey mesquite's taproot commonly reaches depths of 40 feet (12 m) when subsurface water is available , though a taproot 190 feet (58 m) deep has been observed . In areas where the soil is shallow, where water does not penetrate deeply, or where a distinct calcium carbonate layer is present, the taproot seldom extends more than 3 to 6 feet (1-2 m), and an extensive system of lateral roots often extends up to 60 feet (18 m) away from the plant base [9,43,64,81,163]. Lateral roots of a 19.7 foot (6 m) tall honey mesquite tree excavated on the Rolling Plains of north-central Texas were concentrated in the upper 1 foot (0.3 m) of the soil profile . Similarly, Sosebee and Dahl  reported that most active lateral roots are in the upper 2.5 feet (0.75 m) of soil. Sprouting from lateral roots is common . These adaptations allow honey mesquite to retain most leaves in all but the most severe droughts.
As a legume, honey mesquite is capable of housing N2-fixing bacteria in nodes along its roots; it is also commonly heavily colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi . Mesquites obtain about half of their nitrogen from symbiotic bacteria housed in root nodules . Deloach  commented that nodes are rarely seen in honey mesquite but that the nodulation process is likely under multifactorial control and may not always be observable. Rundel  found that in the Sonora Desert of California, honey mesquite may fix up to 66 lbs/ acre/ year. An nitrate accretion rate of 90 lbs/ acre/ year was observed for 10 years in California below a western honey mesquite stand . Honey mesquite, though potentially detrimental to competitive grasses, also facilitates plant growth by increasing soil organic matter content and nitrogen status [7,16].
Maximum ages that plants attain is unclear. Near Amarillo, Texas, the maximum age of plants within a stand of multi-stemmed honey mesquites ranged from 40 to 110 years . On the Rio Grande Plains of Texas, Archer [12,13] found that 89% to 93% of honey mesquite plants were less than 100 years old, and the maximum age of plants sampled was 172 to 217 years.RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
Asexual regeneration: Honey mesquite plants can sprout from numerous perennial dormant buds located along rhizomes or the upper part of the root [62,64]. Dormant buds can occur up to 12 inches (30 cm) below the soil surface on older trees but are most commonly concentrated along the basal portion of the underground stem in a zone 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) below the soil surface . 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 .SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
In the Mojave and Sonoran deserts, rainfall is generally insufficient to provide adequate surface soil moisture for western honey mesquite to survive. Under these extremely arid conditions, western honey mesquite is a phreatophyte, typically occupying alkali sinks, outwash plains, dry lakes, oases, arroyos, or riverbanks, where plants have access to permanent underground water [96,158]. Plants are much less common outside washes .
Soils: Mesquites are adapted to most soil types, but in Texas, honey mesquite tends to grow best on medium to fine-textured soils. In areas of western Texas and southern New Mexico, honey mesquite grows on hummocky sand dunes . Honey mesquite can grow rapidly to keep photosynthetic and reproductive structures above rising sand level . On the Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico, honey mesquite is found on all soil types including loamy sand, sandy loam, calcareous silt loam, noncalcareous silt loam, gravelly sand loam, deep sandy loam, and calcareous clay .
Elevation: Honey mesquite generally grows below 4,500 feet (1,387 m) in elevation . Western honey mesquite's elevational range in California is from 197 feet (60 m) below sea level to 3,575 feet (1,090 m) above sea level ; in Utah western honey mesquite grows between 2,197 feet (670 m) and 3,838 feet (1,170 m) . In Arizona, western honey mesquite grows primarily below 5,000 feet (1500 m) . In New Mexico, the typical variety of honey mesquite grows primarily between 3,000 and 5,000 feet (900-1500 m) .
Climate: In arid areas where annual rainfall is less than 6 inches (150 mm), honey mesquite is typically found along drainageways. It appears to be best adapted to uplands where annual rainfall reaches 15 to 20 inches (380-510 mm) and may be found on sites where annual rainfall exceeds 30 inches (760 mm) . Honey mesquite is restricted northward and is limited to where the average annual minimum temperature is above -5 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 °C) and the frost-free growing season is 200 days or more .SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
The geographic range of honey mesquite has probably changed very little in the past 300 to 500 years, but the abundance of mesquite within this range has increased [50,98]. Some researchers state that range fires were very important in controlling honey mesquite before the introduction of cattle, while others believe that honey mesquite was rare on grasslands because of limited seed dispersal. Johnston  states that where mesquite has dominated former grasslands, it was probably originally present but stunted by repeated fire. Fire effects research supports this theory, demonstrating that honey mesquite is very fire tolerant when only 3 years old . Plants may be top-killed by fire, but most resprout. Thus prior to grazing by livestock, repeated grassland fires probably only killed mesquite seedlings and a few other individuals but kept most plants low in stature and prevented many from producing seed.
Dispersal of mesquite seeds was likely greater during the Pleistocene when browsing megafauna, such as camelids, stegomastodons, notoungulates, and edentates were present . With the introduction of livestock by European settlers, mesquite invaded grasslands as cattle transported seed from plants which were primarily found in draws and drainageways. Brown and Archer  state that seed dispersal was probably the most important factor in honey mesquite's increase. Reduced fire frequencies due to overgrazing would have allowed honey mesquite plants that were previously suppressed and kept low in stature to reach maturity and thus produce more seed for livestock to disperse away from the parent plants.
Fire exclusion has facilitated spread of honey mesquite. See the "Fire Ecology" section of this summary for further information.
In the Mesilla basin of southern New Mexico and northern Mexico there are extensive dune fields, some of which predate European-American settlement, and some that have been transformed from semidesert grasslands during this century. It is theorized that conversion to dunelands is a self-sustaining process which leads to further desertification . With heavy grazing, drought, and competition with honey mesquite for soil moisture, much of the grass cover on these sandy sites was depleted. The loss of grass cover led to wind erosion and the formation of dunes around honey mesquite plants. The multi-stemmed growth form of honey mesquite, which characteristically occurs on sandy soils, entraps drifting sands [72,82].SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Following bud burst, twig elongation and leaf growth are rapid and generally completed in about 6 weeks . New foliage is generally very dense following a wet spring and fall, but less foliage is produced if the preceding spring and fall were dry . Inflorescences emerge in the spring with the leaves. By the time the leaves are fully expanded, miniature fruit pods have begun to develop . It takes 2 to 3 months for the fruits to mature, and by late summer they fall from the plant. More than 1 fruit crop per year is possible but uncommon. Sometimes a wet period late in the flowering season causes a flush of new growth, producing new leaves and flowers and, consequently, a 2nd fruit crop. Flowering may occur up to 4 times in 1 growing season. Flower production varies with amount of available soil moisture. Heavy flowering and fruiting often occur when soil moisture is low; high soil moisture at the time of flowering appears to suppress fruit production .
Leaf drop generally occurs in November or December and is often initiated by a killing frost or leaf removal by insects . Plants from northern populations show early dormancy and are more resistant to freezing damage than plants from southern populations . Seasonal development of honey mesquite plants in western Texas was documented as follows :
|November to March||trees dormant|
|April 16||most trees beginning to leaf out; immature flower spikes less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) long|
|May 10||trees with fully developed leaves, white flowers, and immature flower spikes|
|May 24||few flowers remaining; immature (green) flower spikes still present on many trees; green pods less than 1 inch (2.5 cm) long|
|June 7||pods vary in length from 2 to 6 inches (2.5-15.2 cm)|
|July 5||pods maturing (seeds partially developed)|
|August 26||pods fallen from tree|
|September and October||trees with leaves, but physiologically inactive|
Numerous wild and domestic animals consume and disperse honey mesquite seed . Little is known about honey mesquite seed banks, seed longevity in the field, or the importance of seed banks in recovery after fire . Seed from off-site honey mesquite could potentially be transported to burned areas by animals. Johnston  states that where mesquite dominates brushy ranges, the successional changes may not have been from mesquite-free grasslands to brushlands, but from low stature mesquite grasslands to brushlands. Brown and Archer  hypothesize that since mesquites evolved with browsing Pleistocene megafauna, low densities of honey mesquite in southwestern grasslands prior to European-American introduction of livestock resulted primarily from limited seed dispersal after the Pleistocene .
Fire regimes: More is known about historic fire regimes in communities of the typical variety of honey mesquite than in western honey mesquite communities. Western honey mesquite occurs in the Mojave and Sonora deserts; not much is known of their fire histories. It is assumed that fuels in these desert were so discontinuous in the past that fire was infrequent . In former desert grassland communities that honey mesquite has invaded in southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, and southwestern Texas, fires occurred at "rather frequent intervals" prior to livestock introduction . McPherson  states that it is difficult to know detailed fire history in desert grasslands but indirect evidence, primarily accounts of European- American settlers, suggests that fires occurred at least every 10 years. Also, based on known rates of velvet mesquite establishment and growth in grasslands, McPherson  concluded that fires had to have occurred at 7 to 10 year intervals to prevent its establishment. Using a similar analysis, Paysen and others  concluded that the likely historic average fire return interval in mesquite savannas was 10 years. There were large numbers of livestock in some areas of the desert grassland as early as 1880, and fire frequency was reduced due to lack of fuel rather than fire suppression .
Honey mesquite also grows in dune fields that, because of low fuel loading, have seldom if ever burned. An example of such a habitat is the Wild Horse Desert of southern Texas, a sandy rangeland where fuel is discontinuous and honey mesquite grows 15 to 20 feet (4.6-6.1 m) tall .
Fire regimes for plant communities and ecosystems in which honey mesquite occurs are presented below. More information regarding fire regimes and fire ecology of these communities can be found in the 'Fire Ecology and Adaptations' section of the FEIS species summary for the plant community or ecosystem dominants below.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|bluestem prairie||Andropogon gerardii var. gerardii-Schizachyrium scoparium||< 10 [106,135]|
|bluestem-Sacahuista prairie||A. littoralis-Spartina spartinae||< 10|
|desert grasslands||Bouteloua eriopoda and/or Pleuraphis mutica||5-100|
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||< 35|
|blue grama-tobosa prairie||B. gracilis-Pleuraphis mutica||< 35 to < 100|
|paloverde-cactus shrub||Cercidium microphyllum/Opuntia spp.||< 35 to < 100|
|blackbrush||Coleogyne ramosissima||< 35 to < 100|
|juniper-oak savanna||Juniperus ashei-Quercus virginiana||< 35|
|Ashe juniper||J. ashei||< 35|
|Ceniza shrub||Larrea tridentata-Leucophyllum frutescens-Prosopis glandulosa||< 35|
|galleta-threeawn shrubsteppe||Pleuraphis jamesii-Aristida purpurea||< 35 to < 100 |
|mesquite||Prosopis glandulosa||< 35 to < 100 [121,135]|
|mesquite-buffalo grass||Prosopis g.-Buchloe dactyloides||< 35|
|Texas savanna||Prosopis g. var. glandulosa||< 10|
|shinnery||Quercus mohriana||< 35|
|little bluestem-grama prairie||Schizachyrium scoparium-Bouteloua spp.||< 35 |
There are conflicting findings regarding the relative impacts of fuels and weather conditions on honey mesquite damage by fire. At the Wagoner Estate near Vernon, Texas, Ansley and Lucia  compared 2 plots: plot 1 had 4,085 lbs/ac of fine fuel and plot 2 had 1,861 lbs/ac of fine fuel. On plot 1, 72% of honey mesquite was top-killed and there was a 95% reduction in total canopy; on plot 2, honey mesquite was 15% top-killed and its total canopy cover was reduced 42%.
The influence of mesquite size and fuel loading on fire mortality of velvet mesquite, a closely related species, has been thoroughly studied [41,69,141]. Following a June fire on the Santa Rita Experimental Range in Arizona, velvet mesquite suffered 25% mortality in an area with 4,480 pounds per acre of herbaceous fuel dominated by the exotic Lehman lovegrass (Eragrostis lehmanniana), but in areas with 2,200 pounds per acre of herbaceous fuel dominated by black grama, velvet mesquite suffered only 8% mortality . Prescribed burning on the Santa Rita Experimental Range generally resulted in about 50% mortality of young velvet mesquite that were less than 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) in basal stem diameter, but only 8% to 15% mortality of plants that were greater than 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) in basal diameter . One experimental burn on the Wagoner Estate near Vernon, Texas showed that honey mesquite top-kill was more correlated with relative humidity and air temperature than with amounts of total or fine fuel . Another detailed fire study was undertaken on the Welder Wildlife Refuge of southern Texas. Fire peak temperature and temperature duration at canopy level were found to influence mesquite top-kill more than extreme temperatures at the ground level .
Using a propane burner and temperature control to simulate natural fire, Wright and others  found that young honey mesquite plants are very susceptible to "moderate- severity" fires until they reach 1.5 years of age, moderately susceptible at 2.5 years, and very tolerant after 3.5 years. In the study, the percent mortality (after 15 months) of various ages of individually burned young honey mesquite plants was observed after 15 months after exposure; results are summarized below :
Winter burns often allow regrowth from buds in the crown because fire severity is not great enough to cause complete top-kill. Though percent canopy cover of honey mesquite recovers quickly following these low-severity fires, stand structure becomes more like a savanna than a thicket, which is the most common structure following a disturbance that causes a high rate of complete top-kill .DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
On some sites honey mesquite has reduced the native grass cover to the extent that there is now insufficient fuel to carry anything more than a "spotty" or "cool" fire . In general, fire will not carry in southwestern grasslands unless there is a minimum of 600 pounds per acre (654 kg/ha) of herbaceous fuels. When there is less than 892 pounds per acre (1,000 kg/ha), a wind speed of 8 miles per hour (12.8 km/hr) is needed to carry the fire .
Once honey mesquite stands are established, use of stand- replacement fires can cause only minimal reduction in honey mesquite density; regrowth is both rapid and of a thicket-like structure, that is commonly more detrimental to forage production than the pre-burn stand structure . Paysen and others  recommend that managers use low-severity fires so that apical dominance is maintained and sprouting is minimized. Ansley and others  also support this strategy and recommend winter fires instead of summer fires except when fuel loads are low. The Texas Extension Service recommends the following conditions for prescribed burning (in intervals of 5 to 10 years) in honey mesquite-tobosagrass communities: wind of 6 to 15 mph (10-25 kph), relative humidity between 20% and 60%, temperature between 45 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (7.2- 21 °C), during late January, February, or early March .
It is well-documented that fire can be used as a management tool in tobosagrass and other mesic honey mesquite habitats [2,7,135]. In shortgrass communities, according to Wright , fire cannot be "recommended as a tool to control shrubs or increase grass production." In these communities fire, particularly in dry years, can harm black grama and other grasses, thereby increasing the competitive ability of western honey mesquite [37,61,186].
Interactions of fire and herbicide effects: Britton and Wright  observed 24% mortality in a stand of honey mesquite (20 miles south of Colorado City, Texas) that had been top-killed by herbicides 4 years prior to burning. On the Rolling Plains of Texas, 32% of honey mesquite were killed by fires occurring in March or April soon after a 2,4,5-T herbicide treatment. These mortality rates were unusually high and were attributed to dead foliage and stems that increased fire severity locally. Repeated winter or summer fires did not achieve root-kill greater than 4%. Though there had been an herbicide (2,4,5-T) treatment 17 to 26 years prior to the fire, there were not many dead stems to increase fire intensity and whole-plant mortality . Three to six foot tall (1-2 m) honey mesquite plants, which had survived herbicide (2,4,5-T) spraying 7 years earlier, were top-killed by a late March prescribed fire in western Texas. Most plants survived by sprouting from belowground buds. Resprouts ranged from a few inches to over 4 feet (1.2 m) tall 6 months after the fire . See the Research Project Summary of this study for additional details.
Following controlled spring burning of honey mesquite plants in southwestern Texas that had survived application of 2,4,5-T 4 years earlier, honey mesquite plants were top-killed. Resprouts grew 17 inches (43.2 cm) tall within 4 months . Six years of postfire growth is summarized below; data are means of 15 replicates:
|Postfire year||Height of resprouts (inches)||Resprouts per plant|
Another study of fire effects on honey mesquite was undertaken in the High Plains of Texas near Colorado City. Fire was prescribed on upland and riparian areas. The season during which fire occurred was not specified but honey mesquite were physiologically active at the time. On bottom lands there was no mortality of large honey mesquite even though they had been sprayed with herbicides (2,4,5-T); well-developed root systems allowed resprouting the following growing season. On upland sites mortality was up to 50%. Percent mortality was measured up to 5 years after burning, showing that fire-induced mortality is sometimes not immediate. Insect and rodent damage following fire damage causes indirect fire morality. Results and burning conditions were as follows .
|Year of burn||Number of trees surveyed||
|Tobosa fuel||Fuel moisture||Air temperature||Relative humidity||Wind speed|
|1st year||2nd year||3rd year||4th year||5th year||(lbs/acre)||(%)||(°F)||(%)||(mph)|
|Height of thermocouple (m)||Peak fire temperature (°C)||FTD100
|0||449 (26)||92 (8)||53 (7)||18|
|0.1-0.3||567 (30)||53 (3)||32 (2)||20|
|1-3||201 (19)||20 (3)||5 (1)||20|
Fire temperature duration patterns were most strongly related to fine fuel loads. The relationship between fire peak temperatures, FTD100, and FTD200 and fine fuel amount, moisture, air temperature, relative humidity, and wind were analyzed with regression analyses; r2 values are presented here:
|Peak fire temperature||Fire temperature duration (seconds over 100 °C)||Fire temperature duration (seconds over 200 °C)|
|0 inches||4-12 inches||39-117 inches||0 inches||4-12 inches||39-117 inches||0 inches||4-12 inches||39-117 inches|
|Fine fuel amount (kg/ha)||.50**||.43**||.35**||.34||.48*||.55**||.28||.51**||.43*|
|Fuel moisture (%)||.25||.24||.30||.01||.08||.54*||.01||.32||.22|
|Air temperature (°C)||.16||.19||.18||.06||.27||.37*||.02||.37*||.14|
|Relative humidity (%)||.12||.06||.10||.09||.25||.18||.05||.17||.13|
|Relative humidity (on Ninemile only)||.10||.02||.01||.20||.30||.03||.13||.05||.03|
|Relative humidity (on Y ranch only)||.13||.11||.44*||.04||.21||.63*||.04||.49%||.39|
Of the fuel and weather characteristics, air temperature, fine fuel moisture, and fine fuel amount all influenced top-kill. The finding that air temperature had a dramatic effect on top-kill is in contrast to the findings of Britton and Wright  who found little correlation between top-kill and air temperature. Relative humidity was a factor in top-kill and foliage loss only on the Y Ranch pastures; Ninemile was thought to be less affected by the relative humidity because fine fuel there was more green.
Conditions required for root-kill are much different than those required for top-kill. High temperatures at the ground level influence root-kill more than top-kill. Presented below are r2 values for regressions between fuel, weather, fire temperature, and fire temperature duration (FTD) variables and mesquite responses.
|Percent top-kill||Percent foliage remaining
(of mesquite that were not top-killed)
|Fine fuel amount (kg/ha)||0.52**||0.30|
|Fine fuel moisture (%)||0.63**||0.56*|
|Air temperature (°C)||0.73**||0.45*|
|Relative humidity (RH, %)||0.47**||0.27|
|RH at Ninemile site only (%)||0.17||0.22|
|RH at Y Ranch only (%)||0.92**||0.82**|
|Peak fire temperature (0 inches)||0.34||0.60**|
|Peak fire temperature (4-12 inches)||0.45*||0.43*|
|Peak fire temperature (39-117 inches)||0.55**||0.52**|
|FTD; Sec>100 °C (0 inches)||0.19||0.10|
|FTD; Sec>100 °C (4-12 inches)||0.39*||0.41*|
|FTD; Sec>100 °C (39-117 inches)||0.74**||0.69**|
|FTD; Sec>200 °C (0 inches)||0.10||0.04|
|FTD; Sec>200 °C (4-12 inches)||0.61**||0.56**|
|FTD; Sec>200 °C (39-117 inches)||0.48**||0.38*|
There has been an increased interest in using honey mesquite wood in manufacturing furniture, flooring, and handcrafts. Manufacturers like the wood because it is easy to work with and has unique grain patterns that make the finished products attractive . The wood is strong, hard, straight grained, warp proof, colored varying shades of orange and red, and has a low volumetric shrinkage (4-5%) [52,76]. However, few trees attain commercial size and many have serious defects which force craftsmen to pay high prices for mesquite lumber [52,134]. Fiberboard and chipboard have been made from honey mesquite but have not been marketed commercially .
Felker  states that with the current rate of use of long straight honey mesquite lumber, all of which comes from unmanaged stands, cannot be maintained without actively managing mesquite woodlands for the production of lumber. On more productive woodlands, mesquite thickets can be thinned to improve volume growth of some individuals while enhancing forage production for livestock.IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE:
The fruit crop of honey mesquite is quite predictable, annually providing an abundant and nutritious food source for numerous wildlife species upon ripening in July and August . Honey mesquite seeds form an important part of the diet of mice, kangaroo rats, woodrats, chipmunks, ground squirrels, rock squirrels, cottontail, skunks, quail, doves, ravens, the black-tailed prairie dog, black-tailed jackrabbit, porcupine, raccoon, coyote, collared peccary, white-tailed deer, mule deer, wild turkey, and mallard [1,23,43,73,176,177,179]. Many species of small rodents derive a large portion of their diet from mesquite seeds [1,48]. On the Jornada Experimental Range, these animals frequently store whole beans of western honey mesquite in dens or caches. Honey mesquite beans formed the bulk of stored food . Mesquite flowers are eaten by numerous bird species . Many species of quail eat mesquite buds and flowers in the spring, and seeds during the fall and winter . Mesquite seeds often comprise 10 to 25% of the Gambel's and scaled quails' diets [46,48]. In a southwestern Texas study, honey mesquite fruit comprised 14.9% of the white-tailed deer summer diet, but deer use of any honey mesquite parts during the rest of the year was minimal .
Mesquite browse is generally not a very important wildlife food source. Wild turkeys, round-tailed ground squirrels, cottontails, and woodrats consume some leaves [23,73]. Jackrabbits consume large amounts of honey mesquite. In southwestern Texas, honey mesquite (primarily leaves) comprised 11% and 19.9% of black-tailed jackrabbit diet during winter and spring . On the Jornada Experimental Range near Las Cruces, New Mexico, jackrabbits often crop honey mesquite leaves, buds, and bark as high as they can reach . In this study, honey mesquite was 56% of the black-tailed jackrabbit diet. Locally, mule deer consume large quantities of honey mesquite foliage, but this may reflect a scarcity of other browse rather than a preference for honey mesquite .
Along the lower Colorado River on the border of southern California, western honey mesquite is often infested with mesquite mistletoe (Phoradendron californicum). Western honey mesquite communities often attract large numbers of birds that feed on mistletoe fruit .PALATABILITY:
Nutritional content of honey mesquite fruit collected near College Station, Texas is presented below :
|Crude protein (%)||Fat (%)||Fiber (%)||Ash
|Total sugars (%)|
|Ca (%)||Mg (%)||Na (%)||K (%)||Cu (ppm)||Zn (ppm)||Mn (ppm)||Fe (ppm)|
Nutritional information concerning western honey mesquite fruit collected in California is presented below [18,103]:
|Moisture (%)||Protein (%)||Fiber
Nutritional information concerning honey mesquite leaves and twigs collected from the Edwards Plateau region of Texas is presented below :
|Cell wall (%)||Phosphorus
|Protein (%)||Digestible organic matter (%)|
|Leaves and twigs||June 28||52||4||47||0.08||16||44|
Honey mesquite shrublands provide important habitat for numerous species of birds. A search of 1,600 woody plants on the Rolling Plains of central Texas found that nesting nongame birds preferred lotebush and honey mesquite over all other woody plants . A partial list of birds known to breed in mesquite communities include the pyrrhuloxia, phainopepla, Abert's towhee, northern cardinal, Chihuahuan raven, white-necked raven, scaled quail, Gambel's quail, northern bobwhite, burrowing owl, northern mockingbird, loggerhead shrike, cactus wren, lark bunting, mourning dove, black-throated sparrow, Swainson's hawk, Harris hawk, roadrunner, scissor-tailed flycatcher, ash-throated flycatcher, and the northern oriole [45,139,164,176]. The Swainson's hawk, Harris hawk, roadrunner, scissor-tailed flycatcher, ash-throated flycatcher, northern cardinal, white-necked raven, cactus wren, loggerhead shrike, northern oriole, pyrrhuloxia, northern mockingbird, and mourning dove all nest in honey mesquite plants [45,164]. Honey mesquite provides cover for many types of quail during hot weather; quails preferred lotebush cover during cold weather [36,140]. On the Rolling Plains of Texas, northern bobwhite coveys often feed within the security of dense honey mesquite stands and prefer honey mesquite for nest building . Large honey mesquite provide roosts for migratory songbirds, wild turkeys, and resident owls, and provide hunting perches for raptors .
Honey mesquite stands along the Rio Grande serve as a corridor for migratory birds. At least 38 species of birds nest within honey mesquite dominated Rio Grande riparian communities . Cavity-nesting birds often excavate in large western honey mesquite trees . In marshes along the Colorado River in southern California, western honey mesquite snags provide nesting sites for herons and cormorants and sometimes serve as major rookeries .VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Stem cuttings of several species of mesquite have been successfully rooted in greenhouse experiments when treated with a rooting compound . Members of the genus Prosopis are being developed for rehabilitation and biofuel production in developing countries to help alleviate firewood shortages, erosion, and other problems associated with desertification [57,58]. Because of their nitrogen fixation capability members of the Prosopis genus have potential to enhance soil quality [108,144].OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
Introduction of livestock in the Southwest resulted in overgrazing, dispersal of mesquite seed by cattle, and a reduction of range fires due to insufficient fuels, factors which allowed honey mesquite to increase in density and spread into grasslands . Of Texas's 34.7 million acres of native grassland, 61% have become mesquite dominated (greater than 10% canopy cover). This spread reduces herbaceous forage available for livestock and makes moving and handling livestock more difficult .
For decades chemical and mechanical methods have been employed in an attempt to reduce or even eradicate honey mesquite on rangelands, but it has proven very difficult to control. Adaptive features that make honey mesquite control difficult include: 1) abundant, long-lived seed that is disseminated by livestock and wildlife, 2) high germination of the seed over a wide range of environmental conditions, and 3) the ability to resprout following injury . Areas which have been cleared in the past, whether by chemical or mechanical methods, generally were reinfested with seedlings and/or resprouts. Herbicidal control attempts often achieved only low to moderate mortality. Many or most plants resprouted after treatment and developed into multi-stemmed bushes. Due to its regenerative capability following injury, control attempts in the past have led to some regions being covered with dense, shrubby thickets that are commonly more detrimental to forage production than the original stands [7,63].
Grazing: Honey mesquite has increased on millions of acres of grazing land. Because it reduces grass production, land managers and ranchers often attempt to remove it. Livestock management practices can improve the success of honey mesquite control programs. Due to its reproductive potential and regenerative capabilities, honey mesquite will probably never be eliminated from sites where it has become established . Dahl  suggests that a proper rotation grazing system in coordination with controlled burning may be most effective. In shortgrass communities where grasses are less competitive, grazing management is most critical to suppression of western honey mesquite invasion [90,188].
Mechanical control: Mechanical methods devised for controlling mesquites include tree dozing, cable chaining, roller chopping, root plowing, tree grubbing, and land imprinting [70,84,86,88,115]. For mechanical measures to be effective, the dormant buds which occur along the underground stem must be damaged or removed to prevent sprouting. If only the aboveground portion of the plant is removed, honey mesquite will quickly resprout. Tree grubbing with blades attached to crawler surface and root plows which sever roots 6 to 12 inches (15-30 cm) below the soil surface and root plows which uproot trees are effective control measures, often achieving over 90% control [115,119]. Areas root plowed or mechanically grubbed are often seeded with native grasses. Without seeding, serious soil disturbances caused by these control methods often reduce perennial grass cover for several years [120,151]. On areas with moderate shrub density, an alternative to root plowing, cabling, or grubbing is land imprinting followed by seeding. The land imprinter is a heavy roller, set with pyramid-shaped teeth, 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm) long, attached in an irregular pattern and pulled behind a caterpillar tractor. The tractor and roller crush and shred the vegetation and deposit the mulch into the funnel-like depressions . A study of tree grubbing with a crawler tractor and U-shaped blade eliminated 90% of honey mesquite by cutting roots up to 1 foot (30 cm) below the soil surface. However, because of "soil and plant damage the treatment did not increase grazing capacity or improve range condition compared to nontreated rangeland." The authors recommended this technique only for sparse stands of honey mesquite .
Hand grubbing mesquite seedlings, although very labor intensive, is an effective preventive measure used for removing honey mesquites during early stages of invasion. When the roots are severed 4 inches (10 cm) below the soil surface, hand grubbing effectively kills plants under 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter [84,115,149].
Chemical control: Clopyralid often results in 50% to 85% mortality of honey mesquite [93,94,144]. Taller plants may be less susceptible to herbicides than shorter ones . In 1997, the effect of herbicide application timing was tested for a 0.75% solution of clopyralid. Nearly all applications, whether done in June, July, August or September, caused 100% top-kill and no resprouts were observed the following year (because of rain after application, 1 treatment in August was less damaging; only 20% did not resprout the following year.) . In general, many-stemmed plants are more resistant to foliar applied herbicides than single- to few-stemmed plants . Detailed information concerning the response of honey mesquite to various herbicides is available [24,25,26,87,93,94,97,144,187].
Wildlife habitat: Total eradication of honey mesquite is probably not warranted in many situations because it provides habitat for numerous wildlife species and serves as an emergency forage for livestock. The brushy habitat provided by honey mesquite has allowed many ranches to increase their income through hunting leases. Control methods that leave selected individuals, scattered patches, or strips of honey mesquite can increase forage production for cattle while retaining enough cover for wildlife. Brush clearing can be detrimental to bird populations [48,142,174]. Savanna-like stands of mesquite provide better habitat for quail than dense brush. Leaving some mesquite when dense stands are cleared can favor upland game birds . White-tailed deer in Texas are dependent on brush for cover and open areas for forage. These needs can be met within a 300-400 acre (120-160 ha) area . Deer use often declines dramatically following removal of honey mesquite in large continuous blocks [46,48]. However, up to 80% of an area can be treated without reductions in deer use when herbicides are aerially applied in alternating strips or in a mosaic pattern at various rates [17,161]. Aerial applications of herbicides to control honey mesquite are often detrimental to collared peccary populations because prickly pear (Opuntia spp.), an important food source, is susceptible to spraying. Root plowing disturbs or kills burrowing rodents .
Other uses: Only recently has serious attention been given to harvesting mesquite on areas where it has increased. Harvesting honey mesquite could provide additional income to ranchers wishing to control mesquite on grazing lands. Due to its growth form, honey mesquite is difficult to harvest economically. A mobile mesquite harvester that can economically cut the plant near the base, chop the wood into chips, and deliver and dump the chips to a transport vehicle has been developed  but has received limited use.
Mesquites were probably the most important wild plant staple of indigenous Southwest Native Americans [20,55]. The pods were a very reliable food source because fruiting occurred even during drought years. Pods were collected in large quantities and stored in granary baskets on the roofs of houses or sheds . The beans were ground into a flour which was used to prepare cakes and breads, the main staple of the diet [20,55]. Various refreshing drinks were made from the pods. An alcoholic drink was sometimes prepared by allowing the juices of the pods to ferment. Flowers were eaten raw or roasted, formed into balls, and stored in pottery vessels .
Mesquites are widely used as ornamental shade trees throughout the Southwest because they need little or no watering and can survive on limited rainfall [3,47]. Honey mesquite provides an excellent source of nectar for honey bees .
Toxicity: Mesquite pods are normally considered excellent feed for cattle and horses; however, when cattle consume large amounts of beans continuously over a 2- month period, serious digestive disturbances or death may occur . An excessive buildup of mesquite beans in the rumen apparently destroys the rumen bacteria that digest cellulose and synthesize B vitamins .Honey mesquite causes an allergic contact dermatitis in some humans .
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