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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Velvet Mesquite Favored over Chilean Mesquite

Q. I want to plant a mesquite tree but I’m not sure whether to buy a Chilean or a velvet mesquite.  Do you have an opinion on these two trees?

A. Both trees will do well in the Mojave Desert climate. They both have a similar shape and size, tolerance to winter cold but there are a few differences.

Wikipedia on velvet mesquite
Chilean mesquite

Chilean Mesquite is also called thornless Mesquite. So a major advantage of the Chilean Mesquite is supposedly its lack of thorns. However, I have heard of it developing thorns later in its life.
Chilean Mesquite is faster growing then velvet Mesquite but this can also be a disadvantage. Sometimes Chilean Mesquite grows so rapidly its canopy can become top-heavy and may suffer during severe winds and get uprooted.
Chilean also tends to throw a lot of its energy into top growth rather than a good balance between root and top growth.
Winter form of young mesquite
Velvet Mesquite grows rapidly but not as rapidly as Chilean Mesquite. It has much more balanced growth where it develops a good deep root system along with good canopy development.
Sometimes Chilean Mesquite will develop a lot of surface roots and not develop the deep rooting that mesquites are famous for. Velvet Mesquite on the other hand does develop a very deep root system if you will encourage it with good soil preparation and deep, infrequent waterings.
I tend to favor velvet mesquite over Chilean Mesquite even though it has thorns. Pruning its structure early in its youth will go a long way to having a beautiful tree later on.
Mesquite blown over due to shallow irrigations
As I said, water these trees deeply and make those roots “chase” the water so it establishes a deep root system. Don't be afraid of water stressing these plants to the point where they start to shed leaves during the summertime and then give it a good deep watering.
You should put this tree on a valve with other desert adapted trees and shrubs with deep root systems.

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