70. Bayahonda, mesquite
Prosopis juliflora (Sw.) DC.*
A small flat-topped spiny tree or shrub of dry areas recognized by: (1) slightly zigzag green to brown twigs with paired stout brown or gray spines at the enlarged nodes; (2) leaves twice pinnate (bipinnate) with 1 or sometimes 2 pairs of lateral axes (pinnae), each with 12-25 pairs of almost stalkless narrow leaflets ¼ - 5/8 inch long; (3) many small pale yellow flowers about 3/16 inch long, crowded and almost stalkless in narrow drooping clusters 2-4 inches long; and (4) light yellowish-brown, flattened but thick pods 4-9 inches long and 5/16-½ inch wide, and not splitting open.
Deciduous, 20-30 feet high, with a short crooked trunk to 1½ feet in diameter, and with broad crown of very thin spreading foliage. The gray or brown bark is rough and furrowed, thick and becoming slightly shaggy, the inner bark yellowish, fibrous, and slightly bitter. The spines (stipules) are ¼-1 inch or more in length.
The leaves, mostly borne on very short twigs along larger ones, often are crowded though actually alternate. They are 3-6 inches long, with slender green leaf axes. Blades are narrow (linear-oblong), 1/16 -1/8 inch wide, rounded at both ends or minutely pointed at apex, slightly oblique at base, thin, and dull blue green on both sides.
Flower clusters (spikes) are lateral, often on twigs back of leaves. Flower buds are yellow green. The greenish-yellow tubular calyx is less than 1/16 inch long, bell-shaped, and 5-toothed; there are 5 narrow greenish-yellow petals 1/8 inch long, hairy on inside; 10 spreading yellow-orange stamens with brown anthers, less than 3/16 inch long; and pistil inch long with hairy light green ovary and slender whitish curved style.
The pods are about 3/16 inch thick and slightly curved or straight. The brown seeds ¼ inch long are imbedded in a whitish slightly sweet pulp, which can be eaten. Flowering and fruiting through much of the year, chiefly in the summer and fall.
The thin sapwood is light yellow, and the heartwood yellowish to dark brown. The wood is moderately hard, heavy (specific gravity 0.8), tough and strong, easy to work, resistant to decay, and durable in the ground but susceptible to attack by drywood termites.
Used in Puerto Rico only for fenceposts and crossties. Elsewhere the wood has served for vehicle parts, rural carpentry, furniture, and formerly even paving blocks. It is a superior fuel and makes charcoal of high quality. An amber gum resembling gum arabic exudes from the trunk and, when dissolved in water, becomes a mucilage The bark has been employed in tanning.
The nutritious pods are browsed by livestock and eaten by children. Cattle are partly responsible for the extensive invasion of pastures by this tree. Indians of Mexico and southwestern United States ground the pods into meal as a staple food for baking and for mixing with water as a beverage. This is an important honey plant, and bees commonly are seen around the flowers, which are not fragrant.
Naturalized in thickets and dry forests in the dry limestone and dry coastal regions of southern Puerto Rico, commonly invading pastures. Occasionally planted for ornament. Also in Mona St. Croix, St. Thomas, and Tortola.
PUBLIC FORESTS. - Aguirre, Guánica, Susúa, Boquerón, Cambalache.
RANGE. - Including its geographic varieties native from southwestern United States (Texas to Kansas, Utah, and California) south through Mexico and Central America to Colombia and Venezuela and perhaps naturalized southward Through West Indies, apparently introduced and naturalized, from Bahamas and Cuba to Barbados and Trinidad and in Bonaire, Curaçao, and Aruba. Also naturalized in Hawaii and Old World tropics.
This species seems to be very much at home in Puerto Rico and other islands of the West Indies even though not native. The locality of the botanical type specimen is Jamaica, though an authority on the flora of Jamaica wrote 2 centuries ago that this species was introduced there from the continent.
OTHER COMMON NAMES - aroma americana (Puerto Rico); algarrobo (Virgin Islands); bayahonda (Dominican Republic); mesquite, guatapaná, cambrón, algarrobo del Brasil (Cuba); mezquite, catzimec, algarrobo (Mexico); nacascol (Guatemala); algarrobo (Honduras); carbón (El Salvador); acacia de Catarina (Nicaragua); aromo, manca-caballo (Panama); trupillo, manca-caballo (Colombia); cují yaque, cují negro, cují carora, cují, yaque (Venezuela); mesquite (United States, Bahamas); cashaw (Jamaica); mesquittree (Trinidad); bayahon, bayarone (Haiti); indju, qui, cuida, kuigi (Dutch West Indies).
BOTANICAL SYNONYMS. - Neltuma juliflora (Sw.) Raf., Prosopis chilensis auth., not P. chilensis (Mol.) Stuntz. The last is a closely related species of Chile and Argentina to Peru.