One of the sweet fragrances wafting through the air in the spring in desert gardens comes from the purple flowers of the Mescal Bean shrub.
Sophora secundiflora, commonly called Mescal Bean or Texas Mountain Laurel, begins to bloom in February and continues into April.
The deep violet blue flowers are born on drooping bunches similar to a Wisteria vine. Flowers are a typical pea flower shape. Bees are drawn to the flowers for pollen and nectar.
Sophora species plants are members of the bean and pea family which form nitrogen producing nodules on their roots and will thrive in poor soils. The Mescal Bean also withstands heat and alkaline soils so it is a good choice for southwest desert gardens and landscapes. Provide some irrigation with good drainage and full sun to partial shade and the plants will be relatively trouble free.
Sophora secundiflora is an evergreen shrub or can be trained into a small tree up to 25 feet. There are a few Mescal Bean trees outside the entrance to the Fiesta Casino on Rancho Drive. The fragrance is noticeable when passing by.
It is more common to see them in yards and public landscapes as pruned or naturally growing shrubs. Desert Springs Preserve has a very nice example of one along the walking path and a few of the local parks have them growing in their desert landscapes. Mescal Bean grows relatively slowly so it doesn’t require a lot of pruning and can be kept as an accent plant along the side of buildings and fences.
Fuzzy gray pods with bright red seeds are formed after the flowers and hang on decorating the plants through the summer into the fall. The dry seeds rattle inside the pods when fully dry and mature. As with many bean family plants the seeds of Sophora secundiflora are poisonous so removal of the seed pods before they mature and open is important in yards where small children or animals may be at risk from eating them by mistake.