Excerpt from “Valley 101: A Slightly Skewed Guide to Living in Arizona,” a collection of Clay Thompson’s columns for The Arizona Republic. (Originally published July 19, 2002.)
Q: I’d like to plant some mesquite, but I’ve heard they sprout best after passing through the alimentary canal of a bird or a cow or some other animal. Without such an animal, will they still sprout?
A: Did you know they used to use mesquite wood to pave streets in some towns in Texas? That would be something to see.
Yes, it is true that mesquite is dispersed by animals eating the seedpods and depositing the seeds elsewhere. And it is true that such seeds germinate easily because they hit the ground with a big dollop of fertilizer.
However, you do not have to have a cow or a bird or whatever around to grow mesquite. According to Judy Curtis of the Maricopa County Cooperative Extension, you can grow mesquite from fresh or dried beans, but it helps if you soak them in water overnight before planting.
The thing to remember is that mesquite quickly puts down a long taproot, so if you’re planting them in a pot, it has to be good and deep.
A 3-inch mesquite seedling will have a taproot 8 or 10 inches long. If you’re going to transplant them, do it as soon as the first leaves appear.
Use some chicken wire to protect it from birds.