Silver Peso Texas mountain laurel shines in spring

Spring may be the sweeter for breaking a hard winter’s grip, but we central Texans wouldn’t know. I can assure you, though, that spring is pretty darn sweet following a summer of devastating drought and record-breaking heat. Miraculously, despite predictions of a dry winter, we enjoyed a mild, wet winter. As they awaken, the plants are responding to the rains with abandon, and early signs point to a glorious Texas wildflower season ahead.

But way before bluebonnets carpet the fields, for me the true herald of spring is when the Texas mountain laurels bloom, and this year is one of the best I’ve seen. All over town these handsome native trees are festooned with cascades of purple blossoms. This image is from my former garden, to show you the deep-green, glossy leaves and rugged, dark trunk of Sophora secundiflora. It’s a beautiful small tree all year long but especially in early spring, when clusters of purple flowers hang like wisteria and scent the garden with the smell of grape Kool-Aid.

A silver variety called ‘Silver Peso’ is occasionally available for sale here. The silvery gray foliage, ornamented with dozens of cascading, deep-purple blossoms, is stunning. I spotted a trio of them in Cedar Park recently. They literally stopped me in my tracks, and I got out of my car to take a few pictures, which sadly do not convey the utter gorgeousness of this tree.