Honey mesquite

  • Honey mesquite at Robert Irwin installation.
  • Mesquite beans.
  • Honey mesquite at Robert Irwin installation.
  • Honey mesquite leaves and beans.

Robert Irwin’s installation, untitled (dawn to dusk), 2016, extends beyond the interior of the building. Irwin designed and landscaped the entire indoor and outdoor space, from the basalt rock element standing in the middle of the installation to the trees and plants growing in the courtyard. Irwin planted four Honey Mesquite trees in two neat rows within the courtyard, and two outside the building. Honey Mesquite is native to the Chihuahuan Desert, where it survives well with little water. The name mesquite is a Spanish adaptation of the Nahuatl name mizquitl.

Mesquite, which grows beans, is part of the Legume family. The beans are edible to animals, but in small amounts; too many beans can be toxic especially for cattle! The tree blooms in spring and summer, boasting clusters of flowers called catkins that are green or yellow. These flowers attract pollinating insects, such as bees, which can use the pollen to make honey. The twigs on mesquite have thorns, which help to ward off predatory animals.

Mesquite is wonderful for soil as its wide-spread and deep-reaching roots host colonies of bacteria that restore nitrogen to the soil. Nitrogen is important for plant germination and growth. Mesquite wood is excellent for building and many early buildings in this area were made from it.

Trees, like Mesquite, have deep roots that keep them grounded (as well as hydrated and healthy!). What roots you, or keeps you grounded? Draw an illustration of all the various people or things in your life that root you. Perhaps you stay rooted through family or friends, or through making art or hiking! How can you take these different illustrations and create one artwork from them? What, if anything, connects them all together?