Native to Mexico and a common sight on dry grasslands and hills of West, Southwest, and Central Texas. Seeds believed to have entered Texas in the stomachs of cattle driven across the Rio Grande. The plant quickly spread and is now considered a nuisance by ranchers, because its greedy, wide-spreading roots compete with pasture grasses for water.
Mesquite's gnarled, sculptural trunks and wispy, light green foliage make it a picturesque lawn tree. Its light shade allows grass to grow right up to the trunk. Reaches 30 feet tall and about as wide. Deep taproot makes it nearly impossible to transplant. Does not need watering. Tolerates lawn irrigation better if soil is sandy. Little pruning is needed; just cut out dead or broken limbs. Thorniness is variable. Some selections have branches set with very long, sharp, almost needlelike thorns, but thornless selections, such as cutting-grown 'Maverick', are available.
Many prize mesquite for its wood, which is used in flavoring smoked and grilled meats. But its long seedpods, which change from red to mottled purple and tan as they dry, do just as good a job.
Two other forms of mesquite are found in Texasscrew bean (P. pubescens) and Arizona mesquite (P. velutina). Both are smaller and shrubbier than P. glandulosa. Screw bean is named for its spirally twisted pods, which are popular in dried arrangements. All three species hybridize freely, making exact identification of individual plants difficult.