Thursday, February 23, 2012
Texas Mountain Laurel
The Texas Mountain Laurel is a legume, like mesquites, beans, and peas. You can tell by the peanut-like pods it gets, and like many legumes, it has compound leaves, which in this species are shiny and evergreen. But the most striking thing about mountain laurels are the blooms, and mine have just started popping!
Speaking of flowers, my new yard also has two neglected rose bushes. I pruned them way back, in the hopes of encouraging them to grow bushier (and they also had a lot of dead canes), but I left this one branch because it had a flower on it. The rose has a much more "dignified" fragrance than the mountain laurel. It's a smell that says "classy grandmother" to me, rather than "kid guzzling Kool-Aid".
Here's an interesting article about that. Mescal beans were eventually replaced by peyote, a plant that is reputed to give a more spectacular high with fewer side effects than the mescal bean. However, today the bright red seeds are still made into beads, and strings of them are worn in peyote rituals.
After reading so many warnings about how toxic mescal beans are, I'm not going to try eating any, but the thought of drilling holes in some to make beads is appealing to me. I've seen some pictures of pretty bean necklaces online. I especially like the ones that have a mixture of more than one seed, like mescal beans mixed with shiny black Mexican buckeyes.
I'm mainly just glad to have so many of one of my favorite native plants in my new yard, one that is so beautiful and has such an interesting history. My ancestors used signs from nature like certain plants blooming to mark the seasons, so it seems to me like Sophora secundiflora would be an especially good plant to mark the begging of spring here in the Hill Country.