Nature’s Notebook

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Photo for species Prosopis_velutina

Velutina refers to the velvety texture of the foliage. Prosopis velutina is a valuable native of the Southwest. The wood is used for fenceposts, firewood, and as an aromatic charcoal for barbecuing. The seed pods of velvet mesquite were an important food source for Native Americans in the Southwest and were ground into a nourishing meal. The black gum and leaves from the tree were used medicinally, and the bark was used to make baskets and fabrics. Velvet mesquite is native to the U.S. and is in the Fabaceae (pea) family.

Photo Credit:
Sue in az via Wikimedia Commons

Prosopis velutina

velvet mesquite
What does this species look like?
What does this species look like?: 
Prosopis velutina is a perennial shrub or tree that can grow to 30 feet tall with a spreading rounded crown. The trunk is rough- textured and has shaggy gray to brown bark. The branches of velvet mesquite are often gnarly and crooked with spines. Its semi-deciduous leaves are divided into many leaflets. Tiny, fragrant, cream to yellow flowers occur in a catkin-like raceme. Its fruits are edible legumes (seed pods) that are flat and tan, sometimes streaked with red.
 
Prosopis velutina is found below 5,500 feet in desert washes, canyons, slopes and mesas, in desert grassland, and sometimes with oaks. It prefers full sun and will tolerate cold to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. It does well in dry, hot climates and is drought tolerant. Its soil preference is adaptable, but it does best in deep alkaline, uniform soil. Velvet mesquite needs infrequent, deep water due to its deep, massive taproot system.
 
Prosopis velutina is an important tree for wildlife. The seeds are eaten by small mammals, birds, and livestock. Some small mammals also consume the foliage. Various birds and other animals also use the tree for nesting, cover, and shade. In addition, honeybees prefer the flowers of velvet mesquite to make a sweet honey. Some people in the Southwest use Prosopis velutina as a choice species for residential and commercial landscaping.
 
Why observe this species?
Prosopis velutina is a USA-NPN regional plant species. Regional species are ecologically or economically important but are distributed more locally than calibration species. The NPN integrates these observations to understand better plant responses within the different geographic regions of the nation.
 
 
In addition, this species is a moderate allergen. Observations on its phenology will provide valuable information to benefit people with allergies and the public health community.
Where is this species found?
States & Provinces: 
AZ, CA, NM
Special Considerations for Observing

If drought seems to be the cause of leaf color or fall for a plant, please make a comment about it for that observation

Which phenophases should I observe?
Leaves

Do you see...?

Young leaves
One or more young, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "young" and "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem, but before the leaf has reached full size or turned the darker green color or tougher texture of mature leaves on the plant. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

How many young leaves are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

Leaves
One or more live, unfolded leaves are visible on the plant. A leaf is considered "unfolded" once its entire length has emerged from a breaking bud, stem node or growing stem tip, so that the leaf stalk (petiole) or leaf base is visible at its point of attachment to the stem. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with leaves? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Colored leaves
One or more leaves show some of their typical late-season color, or yellow or brown due to drought or other stresses. Do not include small spots of color due to minor leaf damage, or dieback on branches that have broken. Do not include fully dried or dead leaves that remain on the plant.

What percentage of the potential canopy space is full with non-green leaf color? Ignore dead branches in your estimate of potential canopy space.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

More...

Falling leaves
One or more leaves are falling or have recently fallen from the plant. More...

Flowers

Do you see...?

Flowers or flower buds
One or more fresh open or unopened flowers or flower buds are visible on the plant. Include flower buds or inflorescences that are swelling or expanding, but do not include those that are tightly closed and not actively growing (dormant). Also do not include wilted or dried flowers.

How many flowers and flower buds are present? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), simply estimate the number of flower heads, spikes or catkins and not the number of individual flowers.

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

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Open flowers
One or more open, fresh flowers are visible on the plant. Flowers are considered "open" when the reproductive parts (male stamens or female pistils) are visible between or within unfolded or open flower parts (petals, floral tubes or sepals). Do not include wilted or dried flowers.

What percentage of all fresh flowers (buds plus unopened plus open) on the plant are open? For species in which individual flowers are clustered in flower heads, spikes or catkins (inflorescences), estimate the percentage of all individual flowers that are open.

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Pollen release
One or more flowers on the plant release visible pollen grains when gently shaken or blown into your palm or onto a dark surface.

How much pollen is released?

Little: Only a few grains are released.;Some: Many grains are released.;Lots: A layer of pollen covers your palm, or a cloud of pollen can be seen in the air when the wind blows

Fruits

Do you see...?

Fruits
One or more fruits are visible on the plant. For Prosopis velutina, the fruit is a pod that changes from green to tan, often mottled or flecked with maroon.

How many fruits are present?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...

Ripe fruits
One or more ripe fruits are visible on the plant. For Prosopis velutina, a fruit is considered ripe when it has turned tan, often mottled or flecked with maroon.

What percentage of all fruits (unripe plus ripe) on the plant are ripe?

Less than 5%;5-24%;25-49%;50-74%;75-94%;95% or more

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Recent fruit or seed drop
One or more mature fruits or seeds have dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit. Do not include obviously immature fruits that have dropped before ripening, such as in a heavy rain or wind, or empty fruits that had long ago dropped all of their seeds but remained on the plant.

How many mature fruits have dropped seeds or have completely dropped or been removed from the plant since your last visit?

Less than 3;3 to 10;11 to 100;101 to 1,000;1,001 to 10,000;More than 10,000

More...