Stanford Arizona IV

Next in the series on yesterday’s visit to the Arizona Garden (cactus and succulents) at Stanford. Another false lead on the trail of the silk floss tree: searching for desert plants with thorns we were taken not to the genus Ceiba (in the mallow family), but to the genus Prosopis (in the legume / pea / bean family). To mesquite, which had existed for me in only two ways: as the background scrub or brush of the Western deserts in cowboy movies, and as wood for smoking meat, seafood, or vegetables.

Both kapok and mesquite are wickedly thorny, but in different ways. See previous postings for the nasty prickles on the trunk and branches of Ceiba species. And now I’ll lead with the needle-like spines of Prosopis:

(#1) Mesquite spines (and pinnate leaves)

From the Wikipedia entry:

Mesquite is a common name for several plants in the genus Prosopis, which contains over 40 species of small leguminous trees. They are native to the southwestern United States and Mexico (except the creeping mesquite, which is native to Argentina, but invasive in southern California). The mesquite originates from the Tamaulipan mezquital ecoregion, in the deserts and xeric shrublands biome, located in the southern United States and northeastern Mexico. The region covers an area of 141,500 km2 (54,600 sq mi), encompassing a portion of the Gulf Coastal Plain in southern Texas, northern Tamaulipas, northeastern Coahuila, and part of Nuevo León. As a legume, mesquite is one of the few sources of fixed nitrogen in the desert habitat.

… The mesquite grows as a small shrub in shallow soil or as tall as 50 ft in deep soil with adequate moisture and forms a rounded canopy nearly as wide. They may have one or multiple trunks, a multitude of branches with bipinnate leaflets of a light green to blue hue that cast a light to deep shade depending on the species. Spikes of flowers form in spring and summer

(#2) Mesquite in bloom

that form a flat pod of beans 2-6 inches long.

(#3) Mesquite pods

Once the pod is dry the whole pod is edible and can be ground into flour and made into bread. Many varieties form thorns. When cut to the ground level, the tree can often recover. Mesquite is one of the most expensive types of lumber in the US. It was a popular type of wood used by early Spaniards to build ships, but is now used most commonly for high-end rustic furniture and cabinets. Scraps and small pieces are used commonly as wood for cooking with smoke in southern states, and bring a premium on the market.

Honey mesquite [P. glandulosa] has been introduced to parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia and is considered by the World Conservation Union as one of the world’s most problematic invasive species.

Further in alarmist mode, from the Dengarden site, “All About Mesquite Trees” by C. E. Clark on 12/13/16:

Devil Trees:  Early-day ranchers like W.T. Waggoner called mesquite “the devil with roots,” because it absorbs all of the water in its surroundings causing other plants and trees to wither away and die, allowing more mesquites to move in and take over, and also because of its vicious thorns.

The wood has characteristic scent, and has been used as incense.

Now to the mesquite of my Western-watching childhood. Especially as canonized in The Three Mesquiteers. From Wikipedia:

(#4)

The Three Mesquiteers is the umbrella title for a Republic Pictures series of 51 Western B-movies released between 1936 and 1943, including eight films starring John Wayne. The name was a [portmanteau] play on mesquite and The Three Musketeers, and each film featured a trio of stars. The series was based on a series of Western novels by William Colt MacDonald, which began with The Law of 45’s in 1933.

The series blended the traditional Western period with more modern elements, which was not unknown with other B-Western films and serials. Towards the end of the series, during World War II, the trio of cowboys were opposing Nazis.

So I learned to appreciate cowboy three-ways as a boy, thanks to Pals of the Saddle and the like. Eventually that led me to more intense flicks, like this one:

(#5) Mustang gay porn from 1994

Also available: Back in the Saddle, Back in the Saddle Again, Saddle Up, and Saddle Up: The Boys of Bareback Ranch. And that’s just the stuff with saddle in the title.

Then there’s cooking with mesquite, as here:

(#6)

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