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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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Wednesday - September 19, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Trees
Title: Are mountain laurel beans safe to use as rattles with small children?
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is it safe to use the mountain laurel mescalbean pods as shakers or rattles, as long as the pods are not open and the seeds left unexposed? If a small child (very small, who has no way to open the pods) were to taste the bark would that pose a threat? Thank you Mr. Smarty McSmartington!)))

ANSWER:

Although Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) is described by Poisonous Plants of North America as "Causing Only Low Toxicity if Eaten", The North American Guide to Common Poisonous Plants and Mushrooms by Nancy J. Turner and Patrick von Aderkas (Timber Press, 2009) says that the seeds are "halucinogenic and highly toxic; potentially fatal in small quantities to children" and "One seed, thoroughly chewed, is said to be enough to kill a child."  You mention that the child has no way to open the pods; however, as the pods dry they will split open on their own to release the red seeds and those seeds would be very attractive to a child.   Even if they weren't poisonous, there would be a choking risk for a small child putting the seeds in the mouth.  And, even if the pods didn't open on their own, I think it would be extremely risky for a child to put the seed pods in its mouth.  You would be surprised how strong the teeth and jaws of small children can be—strong enough to crack the seed pod, perhaps.

Here is a link to more information from Sweet Medicine Shoppe.com.

I would highly recommend that you do NOT let a small child use the mescalbean seed pods as rattles.  It would be an extremely dangerous risk for the child.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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