This little native tree (Sophora secundiflora) isn't a laurel at all (let alone a "mountain" laurel), and it has some other interesting names: coral bean, mescal bean, and "big-drunk bean." The Indians of the Southern plains brewed the leaves and the seeds into an intoxicating ritual drink--the seeds contain the alkaloid cytisine, which can induce hallucinations. The shrub was an important part of their spiritual lives: they strung the large red seeds (the redder the seed, the more powerful it was) as protective necklaces. Lots of interesting ethnobotanical information here.
We grew our mountain laurels from seeds we collected 30-some years ago. They love the thin, well-drained soil of the Edwards Plateau, and flourish even in our hottest summers. Because of the alkaloids, the deer won't touch the plants; their only predator is a vicious little green worm (the Genista caterpillar) that devours the leaves in May and June. They're magical little trees, especially this time of year, when they are heavy with purple blooms that smell like grape Kool-aid. The bees, eager for any sweet stuff, adore them. And so do I.
Every year, I aim to collect enough seeds and make a necklace for myself, invoking the little mountain laurel as my totem plant. This year, I'm really, really going to do it. What with climate change, N. Korea and Iran, Russian invaders inside our power grid, and an unfit, out-of-control president, I have the feeling that all of us can use all the protection we can get.
Book report. March and April are important months on my calendar. Early in March, I published The Darling Dahlias and the Unlucky Clover, and Berkley/Penguin published the paperback edition of The Last Chance Olive Ranch, China Bayles' 25th adventure. In early April, Berkley will publish Queen Anne's Lace, China's 26th mystery. I'm planning one outing, at Murder by the Book in Houston.
Otherwise, I'm staying home, writing and enjoying the springtime. I've been working on the next Dahlias mystery, The Darling Dahlias and the Poinsettia Puzzle. It's a Christmas book that will be published in mid-October. It goes into production next week. I'm also working on a trilogy of novellas featuring China's sidekick, Ruby, which will be published in early 2019, in ebook (definitely) and CreateSpace (maybe). And I have another series project in mind--more about that when I'm ready to start on it. I'll be asking for your feedback.
Reading note. I am one of those who has no trouble imagining the sentient lives of trees, of their leaves in some fashion communicating or of the massy trunks and heavy branches knowing it is I who have come, as I always come, each morning, to walk beneath them, glad to be alive and glad to be there.--Mary Oliver, "Sister Turtle," in Winter Hours