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Texas Mountain Laurel, Mescal Bean, Frigolito, Frijollito, Frijolillo, Coral Bean, Big-drunk Bean, Colorin

Fabaceae (Leguminosae)

Texas mountain laurel grows in limestone soils in Central and Southwest Texas and to 5000 feet in the Chisos and Davis Mountains. This slow growing evergreen may be grown as a medium to large shrub or trained to a single or multi-trunk tree. The pinnate leaves with their lustrous, leathery upper surface provide year long beauty, enhanced in mid-spring by the densely-flowered racemes of lavender or violet pea flowers having the scent of grape Kool Aid. The black, somewhat constricted seedpods contain red to red-orange seeds which are sometimes used in jewelry. Both seeds and flowers are quite poisonous and contain narcotic properties. In zones colder than Zone 8, flowering is not reliable because of late freezes which damage the buds. Texas mountain laurel is difficult to successfully transplant from the wild. Fortunately it is being produced by a number of growers and is fairly available. Good drainage is a must, as is frequent monitoring for "the worm", the Genista moth larvae which can decimate the foliage in a few days, and is its primary pest. Yellow dye was once made from the sapwood.

Plant Habit or Use: large shrub, small tree, medium tree

Exposure: sun, partial sun

Flower Color: purple, lavender, violet, rarely white

Blooming Period: spring

Fruit Characteristics: bean pod

Height: 15 to 35 feet

Width: 10 feet

Plant Character: evergreen

Heat Tolerance: high

Water Requirements:

Soil Requirements: neutral

Texas Mountain Laurel is the symbol of native Texas plants. It grows well in good soil conditions but still looks dark green and healthy when growing out of a rocky outcropping. This evergreen shrub tree can be trimmed lightly and occasionally to form a denser shrub to screen a view. It can also be trimmed up into a multi trunked tree form. It grows slowly but can reach to well over 20 feet in time. Provide no pruning and care and Texas Mtn. Laurel will still form an attractive plant. In spring clusters of purple blooms adorn the plant emitting a strong "grape bubble gum" fragrance. These are followed by grey pods filled with red seeds. Provide the plant with full sun to partial shade and excellent drainage. Its only pest problem is the Genista caterpillars which occasionally will feed on the plant's foliage but which may be easily controlled with an application or two of B.t. spray.

Recommended Temperature Zone:
sunset: 8-16, 18-24, 27-30
USDA: 7-10


Frost Tolerance: Hardy to 0F (-17C)

Heat Tolerance: Excellent

Sun Exposure: Full sun to light shade, will tolerate reflected heat.

Origin: Southwestern USA (New Mexico, Texas)

Growth Habits: Evergreen shrub or small tree, slowly growing to 15 feet tall (4.5 m), 10 feet wide (3 m)

Watering Needs: Moderate water, soak the root ball every two weeks, in summer, for established trees.

Propagation: Seeds, scarify the seed and let it soak before planting.

Texas Mountain Laurel are interesting lookin border shrubs, and are also handsome specimen or patio trees. The major drawback being the relatively slow growth.
Seeds are poisonous


Blooming Habits:
The wisteria-like violet flowers are grape-bubblegum scented. They come in late winter, early spring (around early April in Phoenix). They are followed by orange seeds in hard pods.

Growing Zones

The native range of the Texas Mountain Laurel