Mesquite is a treasure of the Southwest

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If you live in the Eastern U.S. and have used mesquite, chances are it was to smoke fish. But if you reside in Texas or the Southwest, mesquite is a common wood used by furniture makers.

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Mesquite inhabits nearly 100 million acres in the Southwest, Texas and Mexico, where mature trees grow to 50' with a short trunk usually no larger than 20" in diameter. One dealer described mesquite as a funny tree that will grow in one direction for a few years and then change and go somewhere else.

"There are huge ranches here in west Texas where there's a lot of mesquite shrub, nothing real large," says Rudy Valdez of Acacia Hardwoods in Lubbock, Texas. "The farther south you go, the larger the trees get, but here in west Texas, where it is fairly dry without many creeks or river bottoms, we get a lot of shrubs."

Mesquite (Prosopisglandulosa) is also known asalgarobo, common mesquite, western honey mesquite and honey-pod. The heartwood varies from red to a chocolate-brown, while the sapwood is a lemon-yellow. The wood is dense, close-grained, very hard and heavy. The wood has a high texture, with an interlocked grain, sometimes cross-grained. Mesquite is prized for its stability, swirling grain and variance in color.

Retail prices for 4/4 mesquite range between $10 and $14/bf; mesquite burl sells for about $30/bf.

- Brian Caldwell

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