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Slow - Moderate
For first several years prune lightly and frequently, pinching back unwanted side branches to encourage faster development of tree form.
Easily identified by its unique, clustered, screw-shaped beans, the screwbean mesquite is a small, shrubby and thorny tree native to the Sonoran, Mojave and Chihuahuan Deserts. The edible bean pods have been used for centuries as a source of food for both early human civilizations, as well as wildlife.
It produces fuzzy yellow 2 inch long flower spikes from April to June, followed by fascinating coiled seed pods. Foliage is pale blue-green. Screwbean mesquite has a shrubby, multi-trunked form, and will require careful pruning to develop a walk-under canopy. The shaggy bark is a wonderful feature on older trees. It grows best in deep, well drained soil and full sun exposures. Screwbean will require supplemental irrigation and summer irrigation is essential in low desert locations. In the desert the tree is found primarily along water courses and in "bottomlands" that experience periodic flooding. The tree will tolerate lawn plantings.
The flowers provide an important source of nectar that attract insects particularly large numbers of bee species which also serve to pollinate the plants. Wildlife eagerly eat the leaves and sweet pods making this an excellent addition to your wildlife habitat. Trunk protection of young trees is suggested for the first few years if you have rabbits or other chewing predators. Once more mature the trunk is rabbit resistant.
Growing Plants in the Desert — Important Information
The information presented here is, to the best of my knowledge, accurate and based on my research from reliable sources, observations I have made of plants growing in my, and other gardens I have visited, and observations of the plants in their native habitats. I would appreciate your feedback and experience to help me educate others!
Cacti: In my experience, cacti are much happier in the filtered shade here in the low desert of the Coachella Valley. Colors are more vibrant and they bloom more profusely, especially the non-native varieties. If you pay attention to how our native barrel and beavertail opuntia grow in the wild, it is frequently tucked in the rocks under creosote or another shrub.
Light Requirements: I have found that in our desert (Sonoran/Colorado) “full sun” plants can take and appreciate the late afternoon filtered sun, especially in the hot summer months.