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Prosopis glandulosa Torr.

Honey mesquite

Source: James A. Duke. 1983. Handbook of Energy Crops. unpublished.

  1. Uses
  2. Folk Medicine
  3. Chemistry
  4. Description
  5. Germplasm
  6. Distribution
  7. Ecology
  8. Cultivation
  9. Harvesting
  10. Yields and Economics
  11. Energy
  12. Biotic Factors
  13. References


Honey mesquite, though the major endemic woody plant in West Texas (Goen and Dahl, 1982) and considered useful by many, has probably received more attention for its negative rather than positive economic impact (see 1982 J. Range Mgt. references). Still, this and other mesquite have been favored firewoods for years, and this use is expanding. Not differentiating the American desert species, Felger (1977) says, "Mesquite was the most widespread and important resource of the diverse native peoples in southwestern North America. It was utilized for food, fuel, shelter, weapons, tools, fiber, dye, cosmetics, medicine, and a multitude of other practical as well as aesthetic purposes: every part of the plant was used."

Folk Medicine

Reported to be collyrium, emetic, and laxative, honey mesquite is a folk remedy for dyspepsia, eruptions, eyes, hernias, skin ailments, sores, sorethroat, and umbilical ailments (Duke and Wain, 1981).


Per 100 g, the pericarp (only) is reported to contain 8.1–8.3 g H2O, 5–8 g protein, 13–41 g sugar, and 23–30 g fiber. Whole pods contained 2.2 g H2O, 14 g protein, 20 g fiber, and 34 g sugar (Felker et al., 1981). Contains isorhamnetin 3-glucoside, apigenin 6,8-diglycoside, and traces of quercitin 3',3diOMe, luteolin 3'-OMe, and apigenin diglycoside (Simpson, 1977). Texas fruit pods contain 13.0% protein, 19.1% sugar, California pods contain 9.5% protein, 31.0% sugar. The arabic like gum contains 85% arabin (Burkart, 1943). Leaves contain tyramine and N-methyltyramine (Simpson, 1977).


Tall shrub or tree of 3–9 m; foliage deciduous; spines axillary, uninodal, 1–4.5 cm long, mostly solitary, sometimes very few, or solitary and geminate alternately on different nodes of the same twig. Leaves glabrous, uni- or bijugate; petiole (with rachis when extant) 2–15 cm long; pinnae 6–17 cm long; leaflets 6 to 17 pairs, ca 7–18 mm distant on the rachis, linear or oblong, obtuse, glabrous, subcoriaceous, prominently veined below, costa frequently of lighter color, (1.5-) 2–6.3 cm long x 1.5–4.5 mm broad, 5 to 15 times as long as broad. Racemes spiciform as usual, ca 5–14 cm long, multiflorous; petals 2.5–3.5 mm long; ovary stipilate, villous. Legume straight, 8–20 cm long X 0.7–1.3 cm broad, rarely subfalcate, compressed to subterete, submoniliform, glabrous, straw-yellow or tinged with violet, short-stiped, with strong, short, or elongate acumen, ca 5–18-seeded; joints subquadrate to oval; seeds oblique to longitudinal (Burkart, 1976).


Reported from the North American Center of Diversity, honey mesquite, or cvs thereof, is suggested to hybridize with P. laevigata and P. velutina (Simpson, 1977). Felker et al. (1981) report their highest biomass production among progeny of hybrids, possibly with South American ornamentals. Coppicing ability and psyllid resistance resembling P. alba, but the leaf and thorn morphology more closely resembled P. glandulosa. (2n = 28,56,112)


Southwestern U.S. and Mexico (Burkart, 1976). The shrub is reportedly controlled by 2,4,5-T, aerially applied. In Texas, the control is most effective when October–April rainfall equals or slightly exceeds average. Percentage kill is lowest where rainfall was extremely high or low. Herbicide effectiveness is reduced by conditions favoring new growth, like frequent rain ca 30 days before treatment (Meadors and Fisher, 1978).


The species probably ranges from Tropical Thorn to Moist through Subtropical Thorn to Moist Forest Life Zones, tolerating an estimated annual precipitation of 3 to 20 dm, annual temperature of 18 to 21°C, and pH of 6 to 8 (Hanson, 1982). Goen and Dahl (1982) showed, in West Texas, that a long period of consistently low daily minimum temperatures during the winter provides mesquite chilling requirements allowing for early budbreak. Once the chilling requirement is met, relatively warm minimum daily temperatures can hasten budbreak.


Felker et al. (1981) report a water requirement of 1150.3 cm3 per g of DM.


Harvested as needed for fuelwood. The tree coppices quite well. Bearing fruits in 3 to 4 years, the trees are usually harvested by hand, often after the fruits have fallen.

Yields and Economics

Of the 13.4 kg per average honey mesquite, 5.2% was in leaves, 1.3% in fruit, 1.8% in current twigs, 13.9% in small branches, 22.6% in large branches, and 22.7% for the understory, 4.5% for shrub litter, 18.0% for understory litter. Further details indicating total biomass at less than 1 MT/ha are found in Whittaker and Niering (1975). Following herbicide spraying (3,6-dichloropicolinic acid), grasses in honey mesquite plots produced twice as much forage as unsprayed areas (715–1165 kg/ha cf 336–457 kg/ha) while forbs were about equally productive (140–373 cf 91–333). Comparing velvet mesquite, palo verde, and honey mesquite, Barth and Klemmendson (1982) determined that total DM in the soil-plant systems averaged 147.6, 103.1, and 13.4 kg/shrub, the crown areas averaging 20.9, 15.2, and 2.9 m2 or 1480, 120, and 1800 kg/ha (assuming complete crown cover) respectively. Functional analysis showed that soil under palo verde did not accumulate N or C with increase in shrub size, whereas that under velvet mesquite accumulated N at the rate of 11.2 g/m2 per meter of height and C at the rate of 111 g/m2 per meter of height.


Felker et al. (1981) measured biomass/tree at 4.3–29.0 kg, pod yields at 34–52 g/tree, which compares favorably with P. chilensis, whose ovendry biomass was calculated at 13.7 MT/ha/yr. They report 7 MT/ha for var. torreyana. California accessions showed a wide range in productivity and fell just below the highest and just above the lowest in var. torreyana, at least during the first year. Shrubs large enough to harvest are used for firewood.

Biotic Factors

Mistletoe can seriously damage this species. Bruchids reported from this species include Algarobius bottimeri and prosopis. Golden (p.c. 1984) lists the nematode Meloidodera chavis.


Complete list of references for Duke, Handbook of Energy Crops
Last update Thursday, January 8, 1998 by aw