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Thursday - August 27, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: Trimming Texas mountain laurel in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Is there a specific time to trim established mountain laurels? Should I cut off the dried seed pods since they are weighing down the branches?


Since we were unable to find out if Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) blooms on new or old wood, we believe the safest thing would be to prune it after it stops blooming. It blooms in February and March, so the pruning could still be done before it got too hot. This would solve your other problem, too, that of the seeds weighing down the branches. No blooms, no seeds. Furthermore, you should definitely cut off and carefully dispose of those seeds. The brilliant red seeds contain the highly poisonous alkaloid cytisine (or sophorine) - this substance is related to nicotine and is widely cited as a narcotic and hallucinogen. And they are so pretty, they are far too tempting to children and even animals that might be in the area. Even if you don't prune away the branch the blooms were on, nip those seeds off as soon as they appear. And don't put any of it in your compost pile, the whole plant has toxic qualities. 

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora



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