Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Mesquite Tree—The Bane of Texas Land Owners—Part 2

Reference: The Ubiquitous Mesquite. Texas Almanac - The Source For All Things Texan Since 1857.
All photos courtesy of Google Images.

Uses by Early Native Americans

Southwestern Indians had many uses for parts of the mesquite tree and "used all of it's parts: beans, bean pods, leaves, roots, trunk, limbs, bark and gum." Cabeza de Vaca and several companions, ship wrecked on the Texas Gulf Coast in 1528, lived a nomadic life, much of the time as an Indian captives. "In his Journal, he recorded the natives pounded mesquite-bean pods with a wooden pestle in a dirt hole, mixed the resulting meal with some of the dirt and added water to make a kind of mush."

They made a drink called atole from ground beans and water. Allowed to ferment, it produced a mildly intoxicating beer.

Trunks and limbs were used for shelter and fencing.

They also used it for medicines, fuel, dye and glue, clothing, recreational equipment and other tools and implements.

Uses by Early Settlers

Used it for fences because it was plentiful and resisted rotting, corrals, picket fences, wagon wheels, and ribs for small boats. Railroad crews used the logs and roots for boiler fuel.

When coffee was scarce during the Civil War, Texans made ersatz coffee from roasted mesquite beans, okra seeds wheat, corn or acorns. Boiled dried mesquite leaves became tea and honey from the flower pollen and was much prized.

Mesquite thorns were used for pins.  

Tannin was extracted from mesquite and worked fast enough that leather wasn't lost to decomposition. Dr. Park received a US patent on Dec. 5, 1985 for his method of using mesquite.

"In 1880, the first streets to be paved in San Antonio—Alamo Plaza and surrounding streets—were surfaced with hexagonal creote-treated mesquite blocks. When soaked with rain, the blocks swelled enough to push some of them up above the surface of the street, making for a rough ride. Even so, the city council in late 1891 voted to pave streets around Military Plaza—including parts of Market, St. Mary's, Trevino, Flores, Dolorosa and West Commerce—in a similar manner."

To see examples of the original wooden streets, visit


Though ranchers are still trying to get rid of mesquite, 250 Texans can't get enough of the wood. They are artisans and value mesquite for it's beauty and the ability to work it into a high sheen.

"Mesquite has a swirling grain, radial cracks, mineral deposits in the bark, and often many insect holes, which make working it a challenge. Finding a large intact piece is almost impossible. But mesquite is dimensionally stable. As most hardwoods dry, they shrink more in one direction than they do in the other. Mesquite shrinks the same percentage in both directions. It has a surface hardness of 2,336 pounds per square inch, equal to that of hickory and almost twice that of oak and maple, and density of 45 pounds per foot, greater than oak, maple, pecan and hickory."      

Here are some examples of mesquite wood products.

Turnings and Carvings.




To view more examples of mesquite flooring and products, visit

Also, do a Google search as there are many suppliers available.

Thank you for reading today. I hope you'll leave a comment.

Happy Reading and Writing!



  1. Dear Linda: Thank you for the very interesting post. What an interesting tree, so gnarly looking and yet has so many uses and transforms into such beauty.

    1. I love the tree, GiniRifkin, but many people do not. It is a water hog. Thanks for you comments.

  2. Linda, I had no idea mesquite could be worked into such beautiful ways. A friend of mine (native to Texas) told me that ranchers hate it because it's so intrusive and hard to eradicate from pasture land. But I find the shape of mesquite trees and their gray-green, sort of delicate foliage quite striking. Thanks for sharing such detailed info about them!

    1. I hadn't either until this research, Lyn. The wood is beautiful! I'd love to have the floors.

  3. I had to look this plant up. It's a beautiful tree but... those needles! Not in my yard please! But the flooring, counters, etc. are so beautiful. I've fallen in love with them.

    TY for such an interesting look at the plant. The only thing I ever knew was that it was used to create a drink and the chips/chunks for smoking food. And I can see how it could be quite invasive.

    1. You know, I don't ever remember the needles being a problem in our yard, but they could have and I didn't know it. The needles stay attached to the branches so I guess if the wind blew some small ones off we might have been in trouble. Thanks for your comment.

  4. I "rescued" more than one mesquite tree on our 3-acre live oak place. We cut down the cedars (not really cedars but a kind of juniper--because they are water suckers)..but I like the lacy leaves which make a nice place in pastures for cattle to sleep.
    Our neighbor--a 1/2 Choctaw with a phd in education--makes gorgeous furniture out of mesquite, such as some of the pieces you've shown. If we had a mesquite with a dead or dying limb, Ed wanted it, and would come over and cut it off.
    I knew the mesquite was valuable to pioneers, but I did not know all this you found.
    Thanks for a wonderful post with photos. Hang on to might want to use it again!

    1. I'm allergic to junipers so am always happy to see them go. Does Ed have a store where he sells his items? Nice that he saves you the trouble of having to cut off the dead limbs. I like mesquites too.

  5. I don't think I have ever seen a mesquite tree, or if I did see one, I didn't recognize it. From the picture you posted, I can see it is a beautiful wood. Trees make our world a better place by giving us shade on hot days, giving us oxygen, and delighting us with their beauty and their availability to refuge God's creatures, and of course, for the beauty of their wood.
    A great article, Linda.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it Sarah. If you want, you can look back to the first post to see some examples of the tree, or Google mesquite trees for lots of pictures.


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