Ever seen a white Texas mountain laurel?

Well, now you have! I spotted this mature, white-flowering Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) in full bloom at the Arboretum shopping center in northwest Austin yesterday (at the entrance near Brio, from Great Hills Trail). Surrounded by several of the common (but stunning!) purple-blooming trees, the white one stood out like a bride among her bridesmaids. I slammed on the brakes, jumped out of my car, and snapped several shots while a maintenance crew and people waiting for a bus smiled indulgently.

Yes, we central Texans are lucky—and we know it—to have such a glorious native tree as the Texas mountain laurel, which blooms beautifully each spring against deep-green, glossy leaves and twisty, mahogany trunks and smells like a thousand uncapped bottles of grape soda. A ritual of spring is to press my nose—watching out for blissed-out bees—into each cascading blossom I can reach. Those on the white tree were too high for that, but the smell wafted all around, just as grapey as the traditional purples.

Mr. Smarty Plants at the Wildflower Center says the white Texas mountain laurel is very rare, and it’s unknown whether seeds collected from one would come true or revert to the standard purple. Is anyone out there experimenting with seed from a white tree?

By the way…

Lots of copies of Lawn Gone! are available on the nonfiction new arrivals table at the Arboretum Barnes & Noble in Austin.

And don’t forget: The Lawn Gone! Book Party is rockin’, and you’re invited! Seven bloggers are hosting 7 cool, alt-lawn related giveaways this week. Find all the links on my giveaway post, and leave a comment on each one for your chance to win!

All material © 2006-2013 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

12 Responses

  1. Shirley says:

    That’s gorgeous, I’ve heard of them but don’t remember seeing any before.

    Bride and bridesmaids is such a great visual.

    I had never seen one or heard of one, Shirley, so I was taken completely by surprise. It really is lovely, although the purple is equally so. —Pam

  2. I have heard of the white one. But, don’t think I’ve seen one.
    That is a beautiful tree to begin with. The white blooms are just icing…

    Yes, the white is unusual and so it was exciting to see. —Pam

  3. Lisa Sejnowski says:

    Hey Pam! How ironic – I just saw these at Home Depot today (same day as your post),& had to do a double-take to make sure they were mountain laurels. And they do have the same grapey smell as the lavender ones. Personally, I wouldn’t trade the beautiful lavender for the white, but I’m sure they’re nice in full bloom – I’ll go check out the one you mentioned at the Arboretum.

    What a coincidence! Maybe the white-flowering variety isn’t so rare after all. Which Home Depot did you spot them at? —Pam

  4. Jenny says:

    Yes! I saw one for the first time this weekend in the Lost Creek subdivision. It was a beauty.

    Based on your comment and Lisa’s, I’m starting to think these are being sold as white-flowering and not just accidentally getting planted. Have you seen any for sale in the nurseries? I don’t think I have. —Pam

  5. Katina says:

    I feel some snatch-along seed collecting coming on…

    You’ll need a ladder for this one, Katina. It’s been pruned up pretty high over the years. —Pam

  6. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    You are lucky to have such blooms in Austin. I can’t wait until we have nice blooms to show off.

    I hope it won’t be too long, Lisa, until spring arrives in your neck of the woods. —Pam

  7. Jean says:

    Wow, how unusual. I’d love to see that. I can almost smell it now, mmm. I’m hoping to make it to Austin around Easter but it sounds like the trees may be finished blooming by then. :(

    Sadly, I think most of the mountain laurels and redbuds will be done by then, Jean. Maybe you’ll catch the tail end of the show. But surely there’ll be something else going by then. I was going to say bluebonnets, but it’s looking like a patchy year for our state wildflower due to drought. —Pam

  8. Gaynell says:

    Gotta love those TX Mountain Laurels

    They’re pretty! —Pam

  9. Lisa Sejnowski says:

    Saw them at the Arborwalk HD -outside in the parking lot area, only in big containers (5-10 gal I guess) & kinda pricey (($50-$75ish).

    Oh, for sale! I thought you meant you’d seen them in the landscape. So I guess that means someone out there is growing them. I’m not surprised by the price. They’re slow-growing trees. Thanks for letting me know! —Pam

  10. Nice – I would guess there would be white selections, just like I see here where all we have are wisteria trees in the older ‘hoods. Both tough legumes with fragrant bloom clusters, just yours is nicer…

    It makes sense, all right. I’m just surprised not to have run across any before now. —Pam

  11. Yvonne says:

    Gorgeous! The purple-blooming Texas Mountain Laurel grows wild on our South Texas ranch near Corpus Christi. So beautiful! We live 4 hours away, but I think I a trip to the ranch is in order to see them before they’re gone! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white one out there, but I’ll be sure to look!

  12. Kimmi says:

    Ohhhhh I’m so late for the party. I’ve only heard of white Texas Mountain Laurel but never seen one in real life. Is the one on the picture above is at the Arboretum shopping center? I need to get me some seeds soon. I’ve heard that the seeds are easier to sprout if they are still green rather than when they start to harden. Anyone know about what month I should gather seeds from this tree?