What Is A Velvet Mesquite Tree?
Velvet mesquite (Ceratophyllum sp.) is a member of the family Fabaceae, which includes such plants as cacti, yucca and lilies. It belongs to the genus Cercocarpus, which contains several species including the common variety known as mesquite.
The name “mesquites” comes from the Spanish word “mestre” meaning “to smolder.” Mesquitos are small trees that grow in dry areas, where they burn their foliage to produce smoke during the process of cooking food.
In Mexico, mesquites are often used as fuel for campfires. They have been cultivated commercially since at least the 19th century; however, it wasn’t until the 1960s that commercial production began in earnest. Today, there are many varieties of mesquites available for purchase and cultivation.
As with most members of the Fabaceae family, mesquites are drought tolerant and require little water to survive. They prefer cool temperatures but will tolerate high heat if needed. Their bark is soft and easily broken down into wood chips for use in construction or furniture making.
Mesquites are notoriously difficult to transplant due to an intricate root system. It is best to let the tree grow naturally and carefully remove it from the ground with the roots intact. They grow slowly when young but eventually can reach heights of 25 feet or more, in a wide vase shape. Their lifespan is between 50 and 75 years and they begin producing seeds once they are about 7 years old.
The leaves of the mesquite are long and flexible, with serrated edges. The name “velvet” refers to the fuzzy surface of the leaves; they appear similar to the velvet on a moth’s wings. The leaves turn a golden or yellowish color in the fall and provide a dramatic coloring contrast against the blue sky. When bruised, the leaves have a strong, unpleasant odor, which is thought to deter herbivores from eating it.
The flowers of the mesquite are small, pea-like pods that grow directly from the main stem of the tree. They bloom in clusters and turn a deep purple when they reach full bloom. The pods are sweet and edible, with a taste similar to a pea pod (and can be used in the same way). When the pods turn brown or black and begin to dry out, they should be harvested and stored for later use.
Mesquite wood is soft and low in density. It burns easily and can even be used as a tinder source if no other materials are available. The wood is generally a tan or light brown color, with light colored sapwood visible near the bark. The heartwood is resistant to decay.
Mesquite trees produce bean pods that are rich in sugar and protein. These can be eaten raw or cooked. The taste is similar to a sweet, buttery peanut. When crushed, the raw pods also release a sticky substance that can be used to make cakes or breads.
The beans can also be ground into a powder and used to thicken stews or sauces, or mixed with water to make a nutritious drink. The pods can be dried and stored for later use; they can last several years if kept in a cool, dry place.
The flowers can also be eaten as a last resort. The bark of the tree is not edible.
You’ve gathered your supplies and have decided to head back to camp and tell everyone the good news.
As you walk through the forest, the sun begins to set and you realize that you’ve walked further than you thought. It would be easy to get lost in the dark, so you quickly try to find a landmark that you remember passing and head in that direction.
Your efforts pay off and you quickly see your destination up ahead. It’s a good thing too, because it’s gotten dark fast. You were so focused on finding camp that you didn’t even think about how you’d actually get back there!
You’re traveling alone in complete darkness and have no flashlight. In fact, you left your phone back at the camp, charging with the others. You can’t even see your hand in front of your face, and you start to panic a little.
Are you really that far from camp?
You’ve traveled this forest by day and it didn’t seem this dark.
You try not to overreact, but it’s difficult. Your heart is beating fast and you take deep breaths in an effort to calm yourself down. You can’t go running off in some random direction or you may never find your way back. You take a step back in the direction you thought you came from and run into a tree.
This isn’t working. You can’t see and you’re only likely to get more turned around.
You need to do something different, but what?
Of course! Your phone! It has a flashlight app that will help you see where you’re going. You pull out your phone and turn on the flashlight.
A small beam of light cuts through the darkness, illuminating a small area in front of you. It’s not much, but at least you can see where you’re going… or who is standing in front of you!
You jump back with a yelp. “Don’t scare me like that!” you exclaim at an old woman who is standing several feet away. You don’t remember seeing her standing there when you first approached.
The old woman smiles and says, “I’m sorry, dear. I didn’t mean to scare you.” She slowly moves toward you. “It’s dark and scary here…
come with me and I’ll take you someplace safe.”
What happens next?
~lace your hands behind your back and allow yourself to be searched. You have nothing to hide and you can’t be arrested for just standing around in the forest.
~ve to the old woman. If she wants to hurt you, you’re not fast enough to run or strong enough to fight back.
~ead into the woods and try to find your own way back to camp. You have a phone with a flashlight and map apps–you’ll be fine.
~unt the woman and tell her that you’re not going anywhere until the police arrive. Someone has been murdered and you’re a material witness. The police need to know what’s been going on.
You continue to stand there and stare at the woman. It’s a little unnerving, but you don’t want to show weakness. The woman doesn’t step any closer, but she doesn’t move away either. She just stands there staring at you…
into you. You start to feel nervous, like she can see right through your eyes and into your brain. Your hand reaches for your phone before you even think about it. You need to call the police.
Suddenly, the woman screams at you. “Don’t you dare reach for your phone!” She sounds more animal than human and it’s all you can do not to drop your phone. You take a step back and notice that she’s changed.
Her eyes are now completely black with no white or pupil and the skin all over her face is drooping and covered with wriggling maggots.
You scream–a high pitched sound that doesn’t seem to come from your mouth. Your legs start moving on their own and you run. You hear the woman laughing behind you as you run through the woods like a madman. Trees and bushes are nothing to you now.
You don’t even feel them as they cut and bruise your skin. The fear pumping through your veins is enough to keep you going despite the pain. You don’t stop–you can’t stop.
You don’t know how long you’ve been running. It feels like forever. Your lungs are fit to burst and your legs feel like jello, but you can’t stop. If you stop, you know the woman will get you.
Finally, after what feels like hours, you collapse. You’re spent. There’s no more running left in your body. You left it all on the forest floor.
You barely have the energy to stay awake, but somehow you manage to keep your eyes open. It’s now, while you’re so exhausted that you can’t think straight.
That’s probably why you don’t see the branches reaching out to grab you as you walk further into the woods. One second you’re walking and the next something has pulled your feet from under you and thrown you hard onto your back. You feel your head smack into a tree root and for a moment you think you’re going to lose consciousness. You see a bone-white hand reach down for you and you do the only thing you can–you scream.
Just then, the hand is pulled back and you hear a voice in your head. “Found you, Kit.” You look up and startle at what you see.
Standing in front of you is the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen. Dipping down between two trees is a rope bridge, not at all safe looking, that she is standing on. She offers her hand to you and smiles warmly. “It’s ok.
I won’t hurt you. I’m here to rescue you.”
Despite her offer of help, you find yourself shrinking back. She may not mean you any harm, but you can’t help but be afraid. The things you’ve encountered in these woods–people, creatures, and otherwise–have been nothing but violent and this woman is no different. She’s only here to cause you pain.
You realize this and accept it.
The woman’s smile falters as you move further away from her hand. “
You don’t trust me?”
She sounds disappointed, but perhaps that’s just a trick of the mind.
“I’m not going with you.” You say looking at the ground. You don’t have the energy to explain everything.
Why not, Kit?”
She asks quietly. “I only want to help you.”
Sources & references used in this article:
Reproduction and establishment of velvet mesquite: as related to invasion of semidesert grasslands by GE Glendening, HA Paulsen – 1955 – books.google.com
Responses of Native and Introduced Grasses Following Aerial Spraying of Velvet Mesquite In Southern Arizona. by DR Cable, FH Tschirley – Rangeland Ecology & …, 1961 – journals.uair.arizona.edu
The survival of velvet mesquite (Prosopis juliflora var. velutina) after fire by J Blydenstein – 1957 – repository.arizona.edu
Some Interrelationships of the Merriam Kangaroo Rat to Velvet Mesquite. by HG Reynolds – … Ecology & Management/Journal of Range …, 1954 – journals.uair.arizona.edu