50 Natives: Texas : Sophora secundiflora – Texas Mountain Laurel

June 22, 2010 | 50 Natives

This is it!….the 50th native in the 50 natives series.  I can’t believe we made it.  I might need to have a glass of wine to celebrate!

texas mountain laurel

image from Sophora secundiflora

The last and final native is from Texas and I have to admit I am quite envious of Texas gardeners who can use such a beautiful plant.  Mountain Laurel is an evergreen  with aromatic violet flowers that can be shrubby, but lends itself to well to pruning into a small tree.

Sophora secundiflora - Texas Mountain Laurel texas native plant
1. laurel, 2. Mescal Bean Seeds (Texas Mountain Laurel), 3. Mountain Laurel??, 4. tExaS moUnTaiN LaUrEL

Texas Mountain Laurel  (Sophora secundiflora)can be used as a specimen, patio, or street tree and is ideal for use as a screen, bank cover, or an espalier.  It is a beauty in spring,  when it  displays its dense, pendulous clusters of purple/blue, fragrant flowers that are reminiscent of wisteria. The hairy seedpods which follow ripen to reveal the inner,bright red seeds. The seeds are quite decorative and have been used to make necklaces but they are also poisonous.

If using it in a design, try planting a row on 15′ or 20′ centers to form a nice canopy over a walk.  The bark on multi-trunked specimens shows off nicely when lit up at night from beneath the canopy.

So there it is….now what?  Well I have some ideas…I am still trying to figure out which I will take up right now….I am considering bringing back the ‘Can you make this into a garden series’ — but maybe renaming it to ‘Inspired by’ or something like that.  (CYMTIAG is just too long and annoying to type).   Also I think a series about plant pairs might be fun.  Or maybe also a series that highlights less commercial plants — but not obnoxiously difficult ones, just those that are sadly underrepresented in average garden stores (but for no good reason except lack of imagination).   The new thing (whatever it turns out to be) will start next Tuesday.

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Blog Comments

Thanks for spotlighting this Texas native. Texas mountain laurel in glorious, grape Kool-Aid-scented bloom (aromatic is an understatement; it’s powerful!) sealed the deal on our move to Austin from NC 16 years ago. We visited Austin in mid-February on a house-hunting trip, and that tree, which I’d never encountered, simply thrilled me. I’ve planted one at every house we’ve moved to since then. Sadly, they grow quite slowly, so I have yet to see one of mine reach maturity before we’ve moved.

Your idea to espalier one is intriguing; I’ve never seen that done with this tree. And planting them in parallel rows to arch over a sidewalk would take a lot of patience, as they grow slowly and often don’t get beyond 8 or 10 feet tall. You can force faster growth with extra water but to the detriment of the sturdiness of the wood; such trees tend to get top-heavy and flop over.

I think they are best enjoyed as a specimen tree in full sun, where the cascading, wisteria-like clusters of grape-scented flowers will knock your socks off in early spring. There’s a silver-leaved cultivar that is less commonly grown but also incredible.

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