Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Beautiful in all stages of life

This is one of my favorite plants, Sophora secundiflora, also known as mescal bean and Texas mountain laurel.  These big, lush, flower clusters appear in the spring, delighting not only the eyes but also the nose with their rich, intoxicating fragrance. There's one just outside my office and several others around the campus, so for the few weeks they're in bloom I can instantly brighten my mood and take a vacation of a few seconds by closing my eyes and holding a bunch of them up to my face to inhale their glorious perfume. They don't last well as cut flowers, a day at best, so I try to find reasons to get out of the office and run errands in areas where I know they grow. The plant is a slow grower, which is why I haven't put any in the garden, though I may change my mind about that. Instant gratification isn't everything.
    The grandkids are intrigued, of course, because every part of the plant is poisonous, including the gorgeous seeds that come in shades of orange and red, from pale to rich and deep.  They also found that by scraping them against a concrete floor and then touching it to your skin, you can get a mild electric shock. Leave it to boys to discover something like that.
     What I've discovered is that the seeds make interesting jewelry.

Here's a bowl of them, with one of the unopened pods in the middle,

and here are some in my hand, after they've been drilled for stringing, so you can get an idea of the size.
     After you get them out of the pod (I just put the pod on the sidewalk and stomp on it - don't worry about damaging the seeds; they're tough), you need to drill holes in them, and unless you want to also drill holes in your fingers, you'll need a small drill press. It's tedious work, getting them lined up right, and be sure to tighten the press as tight as possible so they don't shift around. I used my Dremel tool and a fairly small drill bit. The other seeds, in and beside the pink bowl, are from the tranquility tree (I drilled these but haven't done anything with them yet, and haven't been able to find any information on the tree except that apparently the name's used for an online game, so I won't say any more about them right now, except that they're very interesting and attractive).
      After drilling, you can string the seeds like any other bead. I made these earrings, necklace, and bracelet using smaller brown glass beads in between the seeds, and I'm quite happy with them. Even if the temperatures are still in the low 90s (but hopefully cooling off as the week goes on), my jewelry can look like autumn!


  1. Are those the beads when you rub them against concret then you put it on your skin it burns?

  2. They are a beautiful shade of red, yellow and orange.

  3. yes, those are the beads/seeds you guys were playing with when you were here. It's interesting that the rubbing and burning don't work after you drill holes in them - I don't know why.