Labor Day has come and gone. Labor Day is not just the official end of Summer, Labor Day is also about the time mesquite beans (shown here) are turning ripe. The tasty pods are gobbled up by deer and turkeys alike. So if you like to watch these two wildlife species, find a mesquite grove to stake out. Road Runners are another species that are commonly found in mesquite groves. Here at Quartz Mountain, Painted Buntings and Scissortail Flycatchers are also spotted near the edge of the mesquite thickets.
Mesquite in recent years has earned a bad reputation-it grows up in pastures, uses precious water, has large spines, etc. etc. But did you know when the wagon trains were travelling west, people wanted to find mesquite trees? That they even homesteaded where mesquite trees were? Why?
It was common belief that mesquite trees only grew in places that had water close to the surface- within a quarter mile. A thriving mesquite tree was an indicator of where it was possible to find water. Which when you’re in a seeming “ocean of grass” is a good thing to know.
We also have to remember, mesquite trees were fewer and further between than they are now. In fact there were few trees in western Oklahoma and most were cottonwoods or willows lining creeks. Neither cottonwoods nor willows make very good firewood. They hold a lot of moisture and are at first hard to burn. When they are drier they burn very fast. It can be like tossing paper on a fire-quick to burn but you need a lot to last any length of time.
With trees being so precious, people didn’t want to cut them down for firewood. Mesquites have a huge root system. Wagon trains would actually leave the mesquite branches for shade & as a landmark and harvest some of the roots for firewood. Mesquite has had many more uses, enough for a whole separate article.
As the weather cools more and more animals can be seen “eating hearty” to prepare for winter. Mesquite groves and Sunflower patches are where a lot of the action is right now. Come see watch some wildlife at Quartz Mountain Nature Park.