mesquite (mĭskētˈ, mĕsˈkēt) [key], any plant of the genus Prosopis, leguminous spiny trees or shrubs of the family Leguminosae (pulse family), native to tropical and subtropical regions. The seed pods of P. juliflora, a common mesquite, contain a sweet pulp eaten by numerous mammals, including domestic livestock. The mesquite still provides a staple food for many people in Mexico, who grind the bean pod into meal for bread and also use it to make a fermented beverage. The flowers are an excellent honey source. The stems yield a gum somewhat like gum arabic; the very durable wood is valued for fence posts and fuel. The charcoal of the wood is used for grilling foods. Mesquites, which grow in barren sites unsuited to most crops, are good water indicators; their roots may penetrate 50 to 60 ft (15–18 m) into the earth to find moisture. Mesquites are a characteristic part of the vegetation in arid western regions of the Americas (e.g., the chaparral of the SW United States). Mesquite is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Rosales, family Leguminosae.
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