Screwbean Mesquite Info: Tips For Screwbean Mesquite Care

By: Liz Baessler

The screwbean mesquite is a small tree or shrub native to southern California. Keep reading to learn more screwbean mesquite info, including screwbean mesquite care and how to grow screwbean mesquite trees.

Screwbean Mesquite Info

What is a screwbean mesquite tree? Hardy in USDA zones 7 through 10, the screwbean mesquite tree (Prosopis pubescens) ranges from the American Southwest and Texas into Central and South America. It is small for a tree, usually topping out at 30 feet (9 m.) in height. With its multiple trunks and spreading branches, it can sometimes grow to be wider than it is tall.

It differs from its cousin, the traditional mesquite tree, in a few ways. Its spines and leaves are smaller, and there are fewer of these leaves in every cluster. Instead of red, its stems are a duller gray color. The most striking difference is the shape of its fruit, which earns the plant its name. The seed pods, which are light green and 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm.) in length, grow in a very tightly coiled spiral shape.

How to Grow a Screwbean Mesquite Tree

Growing screwbean mesquite trees in your landscape or garden is relatively easy, provided your climate is the right one. These trees prefer sandy, well-drained soil and full sun. They are relatively tolerant of drought.

They can handle pruning and shaping, and can be trimmed into a shrub or tree-like shape with a single or several bare trunks and raised foliage. If left unpruned, the branches will sag down to sometimes touch the ground.

The pods are edible and can be eaten raw when they are young in the spring, or pounded into meal when dry in the autumn.

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How to Plant a Mesquite Tree

Last Updated: March 29, 2019 References

This article was co-authored by Lauren Kurtz. Lauren Kurtz is a Naturalist and Horticultural Specialist. Lauren has worked for Aurora, Colorado managing the Water-Wise Garden at Aurora Municipal Center for the Water Conservation Department. She earned a BA in Environmental and Sustainability Studies from Western Michigan University in 2014.

There are 27 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.

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The mesquite is one of the most common trees in the southwestern United States and some regions of Mexico, and is known for its hardy nature and perseverance in the face of droughts. Mesquite has an extremely long tap root capable of reaching deep underground. And its importance is undeniable—mesquite wood is used for furniture, its flowers provide bees with nectar and pollen, and many homeowners rely on at least one for shade. [1] X Research source Whatever your reason for wanting one in your yard, you have two options: sowing seedlings or transplanting a young tree.


This plant grows to about 7 m (23 ft). It has light brown bark, usually short, straight spines 1 to 3 centimeters long, twice-compound leaves, and numerous small yellowish flowers appearing in elongate spikes. The tightly twisted seedpods (legumes) are up to 5 centimeters long and very much resemble turned screws. This morphology may have been an evolutionary defense against seed predators such as bean weevils (Bruchinae). The seeds germinate after being scarified in the digestive tracts of animals that eat them. The plant also grows in a clockwise spiral. [3]

It is found along streams and valleys in deserts, particularly in damp or saline soil. It grows alongside common plants of this habitat type, such as arrowweed (Pluchea sericea) and tamarisks. [3] It can be found on playas and other areas of alkaline substrates. [3] This and other mesquite species are dominant plants in the Mesquite Bosque-mesquite woodlands, a common habitat type in the desert southwest region. [3]

Many types of animals readily eat the seedpods, including several bird and rodent species and coyotes. [3] Many species of birds nest and roost in the trees, and small mammals find shelter in thicketlike stands. [3]

Food Edit

Like those of other Prosopis species, Screwbean Mesquite has nutritious seedpods that can be eaten. [4] The Pimas cooked the pods in dirt-covered pits over intervals of a few days. [5] Mesquite is a traditional Native American food source, being used to make meal, cakes and syrup. [4] Used as a staple food for centuries by desert dwellers, this high protein meal contains good quantities of calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, and is rich in the amino acid lysine as well. Mesquite is high in fiber, moderate in sugar, and 8% protein. It has a sweet, rich, molasses-like flavor with a hint of caramel which blends well into smoothies or other drinks, especially those made with cacao and maca. The fruits may be used as a coffee substitute. [6]

Wood Edit

Native Americans found Screwbean wood valuable for building, for making tools and weapons, and as firewood. [3] The wood is durable and considered attractive, and it may be used in woodworking. [3] Some Native Americans also used the root bark to prepare a treatment for wounds. [4]


Western Honey Mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa Torr. var. torreyana)
Screwbean Mesquite (Prosopis pubescens)
Velvet Mesquite (Prosopis velutina)

Mesquite trees usually in most of their range they are the size of a shrub. Older trees can reach a height of 20 to 30 ft. They have narrow, compound leaves 50 to 75 mm (2 to 3 inches) long that are sharply pointed.

Mesquite bosque

Mesquite is an extremely hardy, drought-tolerant plant because it can draw water from the water table through its long taproot (recorded at up to 190 ft in depth). However, it can also use water in the upper part of the ground, depending upon availability. The tree can easily and rapidly switch from utilizing one water source to the other.

The plant's bud regeneration zone can extend down to 6 inches (150 mm) below ground level. The tree can regenerate from a piece of root left in the soil.

New growth of mesquite has tough, needle-sharp thorns up to 3 inches long.

Mesquite trees furnish shade and wildlife habitat where other trees will not grow. They will often be found in alkaline soils near water holes.

Although a single flower of the blossom is only a few millimeters long, they are clustered into a yellow creamy blossom attracting many different types of pollenators.

The various types of mesquite can be identified by the seed pods. Screwbean mesquite pods curl around back onto themselves and are the easiest to identify. Honeybean and velvet mesquite are a little harder to differentiate. While both trees' seed pods are long and legumous, the velvet mesquite pods have a slight velvety appearance and feel.

Native Americans in some areas could have hardly survived without the mesquite. They would grind the pods into a course flour, and after winnowing, grind the seeds again into a fine flour. Cakes would be made of both flours and would turn late spring and the summer into a time of plenty.

Watch the video: All About the Texas Honey Mesquite Prosopis glandulosa

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