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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - August 23, 2012

From: Driftwood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Propagation, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs
Title: White flowering mountain laurel from Driftwood TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I love white flowering mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora) and want to grow one from seeds. I've had a lot of success germinating and growing purple mountain laurel from seeds (or beans), so I DO know how to manage it. I know of an unloved, unnoticed (except by me) mountain laurel tree that produces beautiful white blossoms every year, despite total lack of supplemental water and care. I have gently liberated several of the pods that seem to have mature-enough-to-germinate beans. QUESTION: Will successfully germinated and grown seeds harvested from a mountain laurel tree that produces the rare white blossoms necessarily produce trees that make white blossoms? I'm going to germinate the beans anyway, but since it'll be YEARS before they produce flowers of whatever color, I'd appreciate knowing whether or not beans from a white-flowering shrub will necessarily produce white flowers. THANK YOU!

ANSWER:

You are in a position to make a statement in the botanic world. We found many references to an "occasional, very rare" white flowering Sophora secundiflora (Texasmountain laurel) appearing. We even found one seed mix of 5 seeds, which inferred but did not promise a white flowering seed in that mix. We wouldn't count on that. Please follow the plant link above and particularly pay attention to the very thorough instructions under Propagation. We could find no indication that the white-flowered mountain laurel was a product of some kind of cross-breeding, which would not probably  breed true to reproduce a white flower. So, we can make no yes or no guarantees, and since you say you are going to do it anyway, you should let the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center know about it, complete with pictures. This particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team may be no longer here, but we will be excited to hear about it none the less. Be sure and document what you do as the plant progresses.

We found 3 pictures of white-flowering mountain laurels in our Image Gallery, but no information if they were mutants of a purple flowered one or a truly different colored flower.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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