mesquite_drawing_tree

The beautifully clear drawing above is from George Sudworth’s Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope, published in 1908 by the U.S. Dept of Agriculture, Forest Service Division.

I just picked up 3 honey mesquite trees in gallon pots to plant in my garden from Ed Schwind in Fallbrook, CA, whose California native plant business is called The Return of the Native. I had met Ed before at the Temecula Farmer’s Market selling native plants. The plants are pretty small, so the 3/8 inch needle-sharp thorns covering the branches don’t look so intimidating. They can grow us to 3 inches long, however. The thorns will diminish on lower branches as the tree matures.

The thorns were used to puncture the skin for tattoos if cactus thorns were unavailable, according to Katherine Siva Saubell and Lowell Bean in Temalpakh, their ethnobotany of Cahuilla Indians. The Yuma/Quechan Indians used mesquite thorns for tattoo needles as well, and mesquite charcoal as tattoo ink. I’m very impressed by these thorns.

Mesquite trees were so important to Cahuilla Indians that one way they named their eight seasons was based upon the development of the mesquite bean:

Taspa: budding of trees
Sevwa: blossoming of trees
Heva-wivw: commencing to form beans’
Menukis_kwasva: ripening time of beans
Merukis-chaveva: falling of beans
etc.

We’re in Uche0wiva and Tamiva, the cool and the cold days. There are only a few leaves on each of my saplings, as mesquite is a deciduous tree. It’s drought deciduous as well, so if it’s really stressed by extreme drought conditions, it will drop its leaves in summer.

I also picked up 3 bladderpods from Ed, and he gave me some extra bladderpod seeds so I could plant some more. I told him I wanted to be able to gather large quantities of the the flowers for food. He advised me that the seeds don’t need any special treatment, no nicking, no scarification, no pre-soaking—just plant and water them. He said I’d be ready to eat Teodora Cuero’s bladderpod flower tacos in no time.

The title of this post is inspired by poet Denise Levertov’s “Come Into Animal Presence”

Come into animal presence . . . .
Those who were sacred have remained so,
holiness does not dissolve, it is a presence
of bronze, only the sight that saw it
faltered and turned from it.
An old joy returns in holy presence.

Posted by deborah small

One Comment

  1. Dear Deborah, thanks so much for your beautiful website. I discovered it while searching for the calendar (and bought two!); these photos and words feed my soul. I’m 3000 miles from home, living and teaching in Virginia. Please feel free to link to my blog about California Indians, When Turtles Fly. I would be honored. And thank you again for all your work.

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    Reply

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