Native to Southwest and Central Texas, the blooms of the Texas Mountain Laurel are one of the first signs of spring. The flowers are typically dark purple but occasionally a tree will bloom in pale lavender or white. No matter the color, the flower clusters have the distinctive aroma of grape soda. Mountain Laurels are a central Texas and Hill Country native so they grow best in alkaline soil. While they tolerate an acidic soil, they are insistent on good drainage. The rounded leaf is dark green.
The one pest that love, love, LOVES Texas mountain laurel is the genista caterpillar or Uresiphita reversalis. They eat the new tender growth and make the tree look unsightly – but this doesn’t harm the trees health. They can easiest be handled with manual squishing.
This is the bloom stem. If you want beautiful flowers, protect it from being eaten and never trim it off! Some bloom stems appear months before the flowers and others at flowering.
In last summer, dark red seeds are nestled in a dry pod. The seeds are highly poisonous and are said to have a hallucinogenic quality. They have been used for “medicinal” teas and more commonly in jewelry making.
Every once in a while, we come across a different color bloom – like this white one. I love white flowers and have saved this tree for myself. Maybe someday, we’ll try to grow some just like it!
Texas Mountain Laurel has a very sparse root system so transplanting it can be very tricky. Transplant during the winter when the tree is dormant. Dig it when the ground is somewhat dry and always support the rootball when transporting. We ship ours all over the state and have found they travel best standing up and in an enclosed trailer. We began harvesting this years crop last week – the smallest ones first. The 7-8 tall ones, we’ll save until they are completely dormant.
This is a very slow growing tree but well worth the wait!