Carnegiea gigantea, Giant Saguaro

Southwest Desert Flora

Home to the plants of the Sonoran, Chihuahuan and Mojave Deserts

Cirsium ochrocentrum, Yellowspine Thistle

Prosopis glandulosa, Honey Mesquite

Honey Mesquite has greenish to greenish-yellow flowers that are long and cylindric, catkin-like spikes. The trees or shrubs bloom from April to August or September across its’ range. Prosopis glandulosa Honey Mesquite has 3 varieties across its’ wide geographic distribution. All species of Mesquite make excellent firewood. Prosopis glandulosa The fruit on Honey Mesquite is a long linear legume pod that are straw colored, slight curving, generally straight, and constricted between the internal seeds as shown here. Prosopis glandulosa Honey Mesquite is a small tree or shrub with bark that is variable from light brown to darker brown to greenish. A notable characteristic of Honey Mesquite are its’ paired spines on the twigs protecting the leaves. Prosopis glandulosa Honey Mesquite has paired stipular spines at the leaf nodes. The spines can be very long, up to 2 inches (5 cm) or more as shown here. Prosopis glandulosa Honey Mesquite is not a large tree growing up to 20 feet (6 m) or less common 40 feet (12 m) tall. The trees may have multiple trunks as shown in the photo or a single trunk. Prosopis glandulosa

Scientific Name: Prosopis glandulosa
Common Name: Honey Mesquite

Also Called: Glandular Mesquite, Texas Honey Mesquite (Spanish: Algarroba, Mezquite)

Family: Fabaceae or Leguminosae Family

Synonyms: Neltuma glandulosa, Prosopis chilensis var. glandulosa, Prosopis glandulosa var. prostrata, Prosopis juliflora var. constricta, Prosopis juliflora var. glandulosa

Status: Native

Duration: Perennial

Size: 30 feet (9 m) tall.

Growth Form: Honey Mesquite is a small multi-trunk tree or shrub; the bark is variable from light brown to darker brown to greenish; paired spines up to 2 inches (5 cm) long are characteristic of this species.

Leaves: Honey Mesquite, as with all other Mesquite species has leaves that are bipinnately compound; the leaves, including the leaflets are nearly smooth (glabrous).

Flower Color: Honey Mesquite flowers are greenish or greenish-yellow and are long cylindric catkin-like spikes; the fruit is a long linear legume pod, the pods are straw colored, generally straight and constricted between the internal seeds.

Flowering Season: April to August in California; February to September in Texas

Elevation: Below 5,000 feet (1,524 m).

Habitat Preferences: Honey Mesquite is often found in low desert bottom-lands, grasslands, washes, mesas, alkaline soils, caliche soils and sandy flats.

Recorded Range: In North America, Honey Mesquite is found in southern CA, southern NV, OK and south toward central Mexico. This plant is naturalized in Africa and Australia. In Africa and Australia it is considered an invasive species.

North America & US County Distribution Map for Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa.

North America species range map for Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa:

North America species range map for Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa:
Click image for full size map

U.S. Weed Information: Unknown

U.S. Wetland Indicator: In North America Prosopis glandulosa has the following wetland designations:
  • Arid West, FACU
  • Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain, UPL;
  • Caribbean, FAC
  • Eastern Mountains and Piedmont, UPL;
  • Great Plains, FACU;
  • Midwest, UPL;
  • Western Mountains, Valleys, and Coast, UPL;

  • FAC = Facultative, occur in wetlands and non-wetlands
    FACU = Facultative Upland, usually occur in non-wetlands, but may occur in wetlands
    UPL = Obligate Upland, almost never occur in wetlands.

    Threatened/Endangered Information: In Arizona, pursuent to Title 3, Chapter 3, A.R.S. § 3903(B)(3), Prosopis glandulosa is "Salvage Assessed, Harvest Restricted" (A permit from the Department of Agriculture is necessary to transport this species off private property).

    Invasive/Noxious Weed Information: All members of the genus Prosopis are listed as a Noxious Weed by the state of Florida, however Western Honey Mesquite is not recorded as occurring in Florida. Although several international websites list all species of the genus Prosopis as weedy. Genus Information: In North America, USDA Plants Database lists 40 native and introduced species for Prosopis. Worldwide, World Flora Online includes 64 accepted species names for the genus.

    The genus Prosopis was published in 1776 by Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    In the Southwestern United States: Arizona, California and Texas each have 4 species of Prosopis, Nevada and Utah each have 2 species, New Mexico has 3 species. Data approximate, subject to revision.

    There are 3 varieties in Prosopis glandulosa;
  • Prosopis glandulosa, var. glandulosa, Honey Mesquite - CO, KS, LA, NM, OK, TX;
  • Prosopis glandulosa var. prostrata, Honey Mesquite - TX;
  • Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana, Western Honey Mesquite - AZ, CA, MO, NM, NV, UT, TX.
  • Comments: Honey Mesquite is a deciduous single or multi-trunked tree or small shrub with sharp thorny spines that may be up to 2 inches (5 cm) in length. The plants are variable in growth form and height.

    The flowers provide an important source of nectar that attracts insects particularly large numbers of bee species which also serve to pollinate the plants. Wildlife and livestock eagerly eat the leaves and sweet pods of Honey Mesquite.

    All species of Mesquite make excellent firewood and their wood has been used for tool handles and fence-posts. Pollen from all species are reported to be responsible for hay-fever.

    Honey Mesquite is more often found in washes and other drainage ways where water is or has been during the year. Vegetative communities include the Blue Palo Verde (Parkinsonia), Quail Bush (Atriplex), Desert Willow (Chilopsis), Fremont Cottonwood (Populus), Saltcedar (Tamarisk) and Goodding Willow (Salix).

    In Southwest Desert Flora also see: Western Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana; Screw Bean Mesquite, Prosopis pubescens and Velvet Mesquite, Prosopis velutina.

    ****Special Importance to Wildlife, Birds and Livestock****
    Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa beans, pods are extremely important food sources for both wildlife and livestock. Wildlife that feed on the pods and beans include game mammals such as White-tailed Deer, Mule Deer, Turkey and Javelina; other animals include jackrabbits, raccoon, coyote and small mammals such as rodents, squirrels and cottontails. Birds such as quail and dove also eat the seeds.

    Honey Mesquite leaves, although not a significant food source, provides forage for Turkeys, rodents, squirrels and rabbits.

    Bird watchers have long known that the Mistletoe (Phoradendron spp.) berries found in most Mesquite trees are a delicacy of many species of birds.

    Livestock including cattle horses, sheep, goats, mules, and burros also eat large quantities of Mesquite beans.

    Beneficial Value to Butterflies, and Insects
    Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa has attractive flowers, the flowers and their plants are visited and used by the moths identified below; and by butterflies, flies and other insects in search of nectar, food or shelter and protection.

    Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus

    Ceraunus Blue, Hemiargus ceraunus astenidas
    Common name unknown, Sphingicampa heiligbrodti

    Find out more here from Butterflies and Moths of North America.

    ****Special Value to Honeybees****
    According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation or other source, Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of honeybees. Click here for more information on their Pollinator Conservation Program.

    ****Special Value to Native Bees****
    According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation or other source, Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, is recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of Native bees. Click here for more information on their Pollinator Conservation Program.

    ****Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees****
    According to The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation or other source, Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, is recognized by pollination ecologists as providing nesting materials/structure for native bees; A plant that native bees nest beneath, within, or harvest parts from to construct their nests. Click here for more information on 5 Ways to Increase Nesting Habitat for Native Bees.

    U.S. Forest Service; Fire Effects Information System (FEIS)
    See the U.S. Forest Service online collection of reviews of the scientific literature for management considerations of Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, are found here.

    The genus “Prosopis” is from the Greek name for the burdock, however the reason for this application is as of yet unknown.

    The genus Prosopis was published in 1776 by Carl Linnaeus, (1707-1778).

    The species epithet glandulosa means "having glands" and is a reference to the surface glands occurring on Honey Mesquite.

    According to The Land Bird Johnson Wildflower Center the word “mesquite” is a Spanish adaptation of the Aztec name “mizquitl.”

    Ethnobotany - Native American Ethnobotany; University of Michigan - Dearborn
    Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa is used for a multitude of purposes by southwestern United States indigenous peoples.
  • Acoma Food, Porridge and Unspecified; Beans formerly ground into flour and prepared as mush and beans eaten raw or cooked as string beans.
  • Apache Food, Bread & Cake and Preserves; Seeds ground into flour and used in pancakes beans boiled, pounded or ground, hand kneaded and made into a jam.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Beverage and Bread & Cake; Cooked pods and seeds ground, water added, mixture allowed to ferment and used as a beverage and bean flour made into pancakes and bread. Beans were gathered, boiled, pounded on a hide or ground on a metate, placed in a pan and worked with the hands until a thick consistency was attained.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Pie & Pudding and Spice; Pods boiled in water, taken out, mashed, boiled again and eaten as pudding root used to flavor drinks and make them stronger.
  • Apache, Chiricahua & Mescalero Food, Substitution Food and Unspecified; Flour used in the absence of sugar to sweeten an intoxicating drink and beans cooked with meat and seed coats spit out when eaten.
  • Apache, Mescalero Drug, Eye Medicine and Pediatric Aid; Juice from leaves used for irritated eye lids and infusion of bark used for children with enuresis.
  • Apache, Mescalero Food, Beverage and Staple; Beans boiled, strained and used as a drink and beans ground into flour, mixed with other plant foods and eaten.
  • Apache, Mescalero Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Resin used for fletching arrows.
  • Comanche Drug, Gastrointestinal Aid and Food, Staple; Leaves chewed and juice swallowed to neutralize acid stomach and pods made into a meal and used for food.
  • Isleta Drug, Eye Medicine; Decoction of leaves and pods without beans used as an eye medicine.
  • Isleta Food, Bread & Cake and Candy; Beans ground into a flour and used to make bread and beans toasted and eaten as a confection by sucking out the juice and roasted beans eaten as a confection.
  • Isleta Other, Hunting & Fishing Item; Limbs used to make shafts for hunting arrows.
  • Keres, Western Drug, Eye Medicine; Leaves made into an eyewash.
  • Keres, Western Food, Porridge and Vegetable; Beans ground into a flour, made into a mush and used for food and beans eaten raw for the sweet taste or cooked like string beans.
  • Kiowa Food, Fodder and Vegetable; Leaves used for fodder and pounded beans and pods used for food.
  • Laguna Food, Porridge and Unspecified; Beans formerly ground into flour and prepared as mush and beans eaten raw or cooked as string beans.
  • Pima Food, Candy; White resinous secretions used to make candy.
  • Yavapai Food, Staple; Pods pulverized and made into a meal for transporting.
  • Apache, Western Food, Beverage and Bread & Cake and Candy; Pounded bean pulp squeezed for the juice and drunk just like milk and dried seeds pounded into flour, moistened, allowed to harden into cakes and stored and pounded into flour and eaten as candy.
  • Apache, Western Food, Dried Food and Partridge and Staple; Pods dried and stored and dried beans pounded into flour and mixed into a mush and fresh pods pounded into a flour.
  • Apache, Western Food, Substitution Food; Pitch chewed as a substitute for gum.
  • Apache, Western Other, Fasteners and Fuel; Pitch used to attach arrow points to shafts and wood used for firewood.
  • Havasupai Fiber, Furniture; Wood used to make the base frame of the cradleboard.
  • Havasupai Food, Beverage and Candy; Plant used to make a drink and pods eaten raw like a stick of candy.
  • Havasupai Other, Fuel; Wood used for firewood.
  • Kamia Food, Unspecified; Pod used for food.
  • Kiowa Food, Vegetable and Fodder; Pounded beans and pods used for food and leaves used for fodder.

  • See complete listing of ethno-botanical uses at Native American Ethnobotany, University of Michigan, Dearborn.

    Ethnobotany, Ethno-Herbalist

    Ethno-Herbalist: Southern California Ethnobotany; Ethnobotany of Southern California Native Plants: Honey Mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa.

    Date Profile Completed: 12/23/2021
    References and additional information:

    U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service on-line database and USGS ITIS search; accessed 12/11/2021, 12/22/2021.
    World Flora Online; A Project of the World Flora Online Consortium; An Online Flora of All Known Plants - (accessed 12/11/2021)
    Martin F. Wojciechowski & Elizabeth McClintock 2012, Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on December 22, 2021.
    Native Plant Information Network, NPIN. Published on the Internet; accessed 12/22/2021. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas, Austin, TX.
    Benson and Darrow 1981, Turner et al. 1995, Kearney and Peebles 1960, Carter 2012; from SEINet SW Field Guide, on-line; accessed 12/22/2021.
    Seiler, John, Peterson, John, North American species range map courtesy of Virginia Tech, Dept. of Forest Resources & Environmental Conservation
    Steinberg, Peter. 2001. Prosopis glandulosa. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer).
    Available: [2021, December 22].
    SEINet synonyms, scientific names, geographic locations, general information.
    Etymology:Michael L. Charters California Plant Names: Latin and Greek Meanings and Derivations; A Dictionary of Botanical and Biographical Etymology - (accessed 12/20/2021 and 12/22/2021)
    IPNI (2020). International Plant Names Index. Published on the Internet, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Harvard University Herbaria & Libraries and Australian National Botanic Gardens. [Retrieved 20 December 2021].