Calia secundiflora (formerly Sophora secundiflora)

Family: Fabaceae (Legume family)

Deities: Oya, Baron Samedi

Element: Air

Mountain Laurel flowersThe Texas mountain laurel, native to the Southwestern US, produces a showy raceme of purple flowers that smell just like grape kool-aid. Those flowers give way to silver-green pods that contain bright red beans which were prized by local tribes as jewelry or a possible hallucinogen (until they found peyote anyway).

Medicinal Uses: Don’t let the smell fool you, every part of this tree is highly toxic. Do not consume any part, including the bean.

Spiritual Uses: The Texas mountain laurel can open up spiritual doorways. It will also protect you from harm while you walk your spiritual path. It is still a tradition in some parts of the Southwest to give someone a mescal bean as they start their new path (for a graduation gift, for example).

Texas mountain laurel is a slow growing large shrub or small tree with a dark smooth bark and crooked trunk and branches. The leaves, which are a bright waxy green, are pinnately compound. The purple flowers that are popular with bees emerge early in the spring. Kids in our area love the mescal bean because if you scrape it on a rock or other hard surface, it releases chemicals that burn when the bean is placed on the skin.