Austin Native Landscaping Blog

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Extensive Texas Mountain Laurel Plant Profile.

We want to continue and enhance our directory of Texas Native plants that are suitable for drought tolerant landscaping and Xeriscaping in Austin. We are slowly going to expand on the existing plants in our database with more in depth information and lore. Here is a snap shot. You can read the entire thing under Texas Mountain Laurel’s plant profile.

 

“If you ever happen to find yourself wandering the cedar breaks of the rocky hill country between the Rio Grande and Austin, perhaps exploring one of the area’s beautiful state parks, you will undoubtedly encounter the Texas mountain laurel (Sophorasecundiflora). Distributed widely across this scenic habitat, Central and West Texas make up the northernmost reaches of this native species’ range. While normally called the Texas mountain laurel or mescalbean in English, the species’ geographic distribution actually lies mainly within the borders of Mexico where it is commonly referred to as the frijolillo for its abundant and colorful legumes which appear after the spring flowers have been pollinated. These little red beans occur in sets of six or seven and are contained in silvery seed pods covered in hairs. In contemporary Texas, many may be familiar with these seeds through the immature childhood antics associated with them. Many have both fond –and traumatizing- memories of rubbing the seeds eagerly on a bit of concrete until the friction makes them incredibly hot, after which they are placed on an unsuspecting friend’s skin to great amusement. This painful example of impulsive decision making in children and Lord of the Flies–esque behavior is actually a small part of the long story of human interaction with the species. The beans are known to be used by at least a dozen cultures throughout prehistory and the 19th and 20th centuries in Texas and Mexico. While used widely in low doses throughout the region and beyond by indigenous cultures as an intoxicant and hallucinogen during ceremonies, the alkaloid found in the bean often also causes nasty effects including respiratory depression and death if taken in higher doses. Due to the inherent danger in the use of the species as a sacrament Native American tribes throughout the United States were quick to adapt to using peyote, which has the same general distribution with the mountain laurel and is much safer..”

We are very lucky to have found Tom and look forward to more essays about the various plants we use in our practice.

Tom Montgomery is a native gardening enthusiast and plant ecologist from Austin. His enthusiasm and appreciation for all things botanical comes from years of experience ranging from landscaping and nursery care to plant physiology research and field ecology vegetation surveys. While not working in the field or lab, he enjoys mushroom hunting in the greenbelt, photography, home brewing and sharpening his Spanish language skills. For questions, comments, or feedback please write to tm1265@txstate.edu.

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