The wood commonly known as Black Mesquite is known to botanists as Prosopis nigra.
P. nigra is distributed throughout the Gran Chaco region of South America, a region located in northern Argentina, extreme southern Bolivia, and about the northern 2/3 of Paraguay.
For the sake of simplicity and common understanding I will hereafter refer to P. nigra as Black Mesquite.
Black Mesquite heartwood tends to be a medium to chocolate brown, somewhat reminiscent of Black Walnut. As is often the case with highly colored tropical woods, the color tends to darken with age. The sapwood of Black Mesquite is a yellow/tan color.
Black Mesquite has a medium to coarse texture and open pores, with a slight natural luster. Clear portions of the trunk tend to have straight or wavy grain though knots, defects, and other irregularities are common.
Black Mesquite is considered very durable in terms of decay resistance.
As is so often the case when working with woods, the quality of the piece in question will largely dictate the outcome. Black Mesquite that is clear and free from defects is easy to work with hand and machine tools, but irregular grain or knots can be challenging.
Black Mesquite is known to glue, turn, and finish well.
Black Mesquite is reported to have no distinctive odor when being worked.
Pricing and Availability:
Black Mesquite only tends to be available in small sizes or as large irregular slabs. Larger boards free from defects are uncommon. Prices for Black Mesquite are in the mid-range for an imported tropical hardwood.
In this blog, I almost always recommend several vendors with whom I have done considerable business and in whom I have great confidence. These vendors are: West Penn Hardwoods, Bell Forest Products, NCWood, WoodTurningz, Amazon Exotic Hardwoods, Griffin Exotic Wood, Exotic Woods USA, Got Wood?, and Wood Turning Blanks 4U. Note: ALWAYS green turn wet blanks from NCWood as their wax will not hold for extended drying periods.
Only Exotic Woods USA is currently offering Black Mesquite. The vendor is offering a range of sizes from a pen blank selling for $1.85 to a reasonable bowl blank of 8” x 8” x 3” for $35.70. There are several spindle and bowl blank sizes in the middle of that range of both size and price.
Woodfinder is an excellent website that is dedicated to advertising wood dealers. In your search for Black Mesquite, this can be an invaluable resource provided you use multiple search terms to capture all the possible listings. I can’t speak to the quality of any of the listed dealers, but Woodfinder does have the advantage of allowing searches to be performed based on location which might allow an interested buyer to visit a listed wood dealer in person to hand pick pieces at a comfortable price.
A significant problem with using Woodfinder is that many vendors are listed for woods that, upon further investigation, they do not offer. I don’t know if perhaps once they did and they didn’t update their listings or if some vendors use a standardized list of woods that include most everything conceivable with the idea that once you land on their page you will find something you want to buy even if you didn’t know it beforehand. It happens to me all the time!
Black Mesquite finds a variety of uses which includes but is probably not limited to: flooring, turned objects, boat building, and furniture.
Black Mesquite is not listed as being endangered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II but the the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) notes that it is a highly exploited wood that they note as being “data deficient” to determine a conservation status. Black Mesquite is not on the Red List of Threatened Species.