rhe Aesquite rree: from atre 's
aow to Aggressive J7v ader
CARL C. WRIGHT
N 1828, STEPHEN F. AUSTIN DECLARED THAT TEXAS WAS "AS
desirable a country for all the wants and necessities of man
as any other on earth." His description, intended for pam-
phlet circulation in Europe, praised the qualities of a "low tree
called Muskite,"' an attraction of a rich land waiting devel-
opment. Austin's gifted cousin, Mary Austin Holley, also wrote
that the tree was highly valued, "affording excellent fire-wood and
valuable material for fencing."2 In fact, sojourners of the region
between the Nueces and Colorado rivers saw the mesquite as a
boon to settlers; diaries and journals gave definite proof of its
benefits to man and domestic animals.
At the turn of the century, however, with the growth of the
cattle industry, a contrary opinion came from the U. S. Depart-
ment of Agrostology: "The rapid encroachment of the mesquite
bean on the open range must in time be detrimental to the carry-
ing capacity of the range."3 And at present, since the mesquite
has invaded over fifty million acres of rangeland, this picturesque
tree has fewer to praise it than ever before in its long history.
Yet the attention it has received in early Texana alone is of last-
How the appearance of the once marvelous tree of the prairies
impressed pioneer travelers is recorded by numerous writers.
Almost without exception they saw its resemblance to the peach
tree. Fifty miles from the "Guadaloupe" in DeWitt's Colony,
J. C. Clopper wrote in his journal of 1828 that "at a distance the
'Eugene C. Barker (cont.), "Descriptions of Texas by Stephen F. Austin," South-
western Historical Quarterly, XXIX, 110o.
"Mary Austin Holley, Texas (Lexington, 1836), 18.
sJared G. Smith, "Grazing Problems in the Southwest and How to Meet Them,"
Bulletin No. r6 (Washington, 1899), 19.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 69, July 1965 - April, 1966. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117144/. Accessed March 9, 2014.