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SPECIES:  Sophora secundiflora
Photo by Clarence A. Rechenthin, hosted by the USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database.


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Uchytil, Ronald J. 1990. Sophora secundiflora. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Updates: On 1 February 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from mescalbean sophora to mescal bean. The photo and distribution map were also added.
ABBREVIATION: SOPSEC SYNONYMS: NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE: SOSE3 COMMON NAMES: mescal bean mescalbean sophora TAXONOMY: The scientific name of mescal bean is Sophora secundiflora (Ortega) Lag. ex DC. (Fabaceae) [12,16]. LIFE FORM: Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Mescal bean grows from southeastern New Mexico to central and western Texas and adjacent Mexico [15,16].
Mescal bean distribution. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [24] [2018, February 1].
   FRES32  Texas savanna
   FRES33  Southwestern shrubsteppe
   FRES34  Chaparral - mountain shrub
   FRES41  Wet grasslands


   13  Rocky Mountain Piedmont
   14  Great Plains

   K031  Oak - juniper woodlands
   K045  Ceniza shrub
   K059  Trans-Pecos shrub savanna
   K060  Mesquite savanna
   K061  Mesquite - acacia savanna
   K078  Southern cordgrass prairie
   K086  Juniper - oak savanna

    66  Ashe juniper - redberry (Pinchot) juniper
    68  Mesquite


Mescal bean is generally not a dominant but occurs as scattered
individuals in many plant communities.  It may become locally abundant
in riparian deciduous forests.


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
WOOD PRODUCTS VALUE: Mescal bean wood has no commercial value [28]. IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Mescal bean is eaten by few animals. Rock squirrels eat the flowers [10]. PALATABILITY: Mescal bean is unpalatable to livestock [10]. NUTRITIONAL VALUE: Mescal bean leaves, flowers, and seeds contain several alkaloids, which make them poisonous to humans and animals [13]. Data from a nutritional analysis of mescal bean plants from the Edwards Plateau region of Texas are presented below [11]: percentage of dry matter ----------------------------------------- date % water ash cell phos protein digestible collected wall org. matter seeds 6/28 6 3 35 0.11 12 85 leaves 6/28 50 6 41 0.10 17 57 leaves 7/27 52 6 46 0.12 18 53 COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: Mescal bean is easily propagated from seed but not from cuttings [21]. Container-grown plants are easily transplanted [21]. OTHER USES AND VALUES: Mescal bean is a widely used landscape plant in Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona [5,21]. Plants are used as small specimen trees, and in hedges, screenings, and mass plantings [5,21]. Container-grown nursery plants are readily available for transplanting. Because the seeds are toxic to humans, they are sometimes removed from plants in landscape settings before they mature. The brightly colored seeds are very hard and were used by Indians as trade items and in necklaces and other jewelry [19,28]. The narcotic properties of the seeds were exploited by Indians, who ground the seeds and mixed the powder with mescal beverages to produce a powerfully intoxicating drink [28]. Mescal bean seeds are found in Mexican good-luck charms. These charms consist of a small pouch that contains a magnet with iron filings, cereal grains, and the seeds of native plants [23]. Mescal bean flowers are a source of nectar for honey bees [10]. OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Toxicity: The seeds of mescal bean are highly toxic to humans. Symptoms of poisoning, which appear within 1 hour, include nausea, violent and bloody vomiting, headaches, vertigo, confusion, fever, excessive thirst, cold sweat, respiritory problems, followed by convulsions and death [23]. Mescal bean's seeds, leaves, and flowers are poisonous to cattle, sheep, and goats [13,22]. Cattle are most susceptible to poisoning by leaves, while goats and sheep are more tolerant. Affected animals often recover if placed on a high-quality diet 22]. Pests: Plants are primarily pest-free, except for infestations by caterpillars of a moth in the family Pyralidae. Caterpillar infestations of mescal bean have been controlled biologically with a strain of bacteria (Bacillus thuringensis), which causes the caterpillars to sicken and die [5]. Insecticide sprays such as Sevin or diazinon may also be useful [5]. Control: Plants are susceptible to phenoxy herbicides and are usually killed with one moderate application [18].


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Mescal bean varies in size from a small shrub 3.3 feet (1 m) tall to a slender tree up to about 33 feet (10 m) tall [19,28]. This evergreen has upright branches, velvety twigs, and 4- to 6-inch-long (10-15 cm) pinnately compound leaves containing 5 to 13 leaflets [28]. Violet-colored flowers occur in showy, 2- to 4.75-inch-long (5-12 cm) terminal racemes [28]. The fruit is an oblong, brown, pubescent, 1- to 5-inch-long (2.5-12.5 cm), hard and woody, indehiscent pod that is somewhat constricted between the seeds [28]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM: Undisturbed State: Phanerophyte (microphanerophyte) Burned or Clipped State: Hemicryptophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Regeneration of mescal bean is primarily sexual. Plants produce abundant seed; each seed pod contains one to eight seeds. The bright-orange to scarlet-red seeds are 0.5 inch (1.25 cm) long, globose to oblong, and hard and bony [7,28]. Fresh seeds reportedly germinate readily, requiring no scarification [21]. However, seeds have a hard seed coat, and older seeds must have this protective covering scarified before germination can occur. Under laboratory conditions, soaking seeds for 15 minutes in concentrated sulfuric acid resulted in 72 percent germination [7]. Seeds germinate over a wide range of temperatures. The highest germination was at constant temperatures of 68, 77, and 86 degrees F (20, 25, 30 C) and at alternating temperatures of 59 and 77 degrees F (15-25 C) and 68 and 86 degrees F (20-30 C) [7]. In the field, seedlings and freshly germinated seed were observed in late October after heavy rainfall [7]. Most plants sprout after damage to the aboveground portion of the plant, such as by fire [1]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: Mescal bean occurs in most mountain systems of western Texas and southern New Mexico [19]. Here it is usually found in limestone soils and occurs as scattered plants in canyons, on slopes, and along cliffs [3,19]. In the Del Norte Mountains of western Texas, mescal bean is found on canyon slopes with paper shell pinyon (Pinyon remota), smooth sotol (Dasylirion leiophyllum), evergreen sumac (Rhus virens), mexican buckeye (Ungnadia speciosa), brickellias (Brickellia spp.), and agarito (Mahonia trifoliolata) [3]. In the Del Norte Mountains, it is also found in riparian deciduous woodlands with little walnut (Juglans microcarpa), desert willow (Chilopsis linearis), western honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana), and splitleaf brickellia (Brickellia laciniata) [3]. Mescal bean occurs as scattered individuals in brushy vegetation across the Edwards Plateau and Rio Grande Plains of Texas [19]. In these regions it is also common in riparian deciduous forests dominated by Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), American sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), netleaf hackberry (Celtis reticulata), live oak (Quercus virginiana), cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia), pecan (Carya illinoensis), and Mexican ash (Fraxinus berlandieriana) [25,29]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Mescal bean is considered a "secondary invader" of rangelands following brush control and burning [7]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Plants generally flower in March and April [21,28]. The pods mature in September [28].


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Mescal bean sprouts (presumably from the root crown) following top-kill by fire [1,4]. Research is needed to determine whether fire will crack the hard seed coat of mescal bean seeds and promote germination. FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY: survivor species; on-site surviving root crown or caudex


SPECIES: Sophora secundiflora
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Most fires presumably top-kill mescal bean if sufficient fuels are available to sustain a hot fire. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT: NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: Information concerning the response of mescal bean to fire is scant. Ahlstrand [1] studied 3- to 7-year-old burns in the Guadalupe Mountains and reported that mescal bean "reproduced and grew from vegetative sprouts after burning." It reportedly becomes abundant after fire and mechanical brush control on rangelands in central Texas [22]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE: NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: NO-ENTRY

References for species: Sophora secundiflora

1. Ahlstrand, Gary M. 1982. Response of Chihuahuan Desert mountain shrub vegetation to burning. Journal of Range Management. 35(1): 62-65. [296]
2. Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals, reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO: U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p. [434]
3. Carignan, Jeanette M. 1988. Ecological survey and elevational gradient implications of the flora and vertebrate fauna in the northern Del Norte Mountains, Brewster Co., Tx. Alpine, TX: Sul Ross State University. 181 p. Thesis. [12255]
4. Cline, Paul S.; Ahlstrand, Gary M. 1979. The effect of fire on seed germination of selected shrub species. In: Sosebee, Ronald E.; Wright, Henry A., eds. Research Highlights--1979: Noxious brush and weed control; range and wildlife management. Vol. 10. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University: 15. [12313]
5. Crosswhite, Carol D.; Randall, Cay. 1985. Damage to mescal bean (Sophora secundiflora) by a Pyralid moth (Uresiphita reversalis). Desert Plants. 7(1): 32. [12320]
6. Dayton, William A. 1931. Important western browse plants. Misc. Publ. 101. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 214 p. [768]
7. Everitt, J. H. 1983. Seed germination characteristics of three woody plant species from south Texas. Journal of Range Management. 36(2): 246-249. [3929]
8. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
9. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
10. Graham, Edward H. 1941. Legumes for erosion control and wildlife. Misc. Publ. 412. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 153 p. [10234]
11. Huston, J. E.; Rector, B. S.; Merrill, L. B.; Engdahl, B. S. 1981. Nutritional value of range plants in the Edwards Plateau region of Texas. Report B-1375. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University System, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station. 16 p. [4565]
12. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954]
13. Kingsbury, John M. 1964. Poisonous plants of the United States and Canada. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. 626 p. [122]
14. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
15. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1976. Atlas of United States trees. Volume 3. Minor western hardwoods. Misc. Publ. 1314. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 13 p. 290 maps. [10430]
16. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
17. Lyon, L. Jack; Stickney, Peter F. 1976. Early vegetal succession following large northern Rocky Mountain wildfires. In: Proceedings, Tall Timbers fire ecology conference and Intermountain Fire Research Council fire and land management symposium; 1974 October 8-10; Missoula, MT. No. 14. Tallahassee, FL: Tall Timbers Research Station: 355-373. [1496]
18. Parker, Robert, compiler. 1982. Reaction of various plants to 2,4-D, MCPA, 2,4,5-T, silvex and 2,4-DB. [Revised EM 4419]. Pullman, WA: Washington State University, College of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension. 61 p. In cooperation with: U.S. Department of Agriculture. [1817]
19. Powell, A. Michael. 1988. Trees & shrubs of Trans-Pecos Texas including Big Bend and Guadalupe Mountains National Parks. Big Bend National Park, TX: Big Bend Natural History Association. 536 p. [6130]
20. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
21. Smith, G. Shannon; Pittcock, Kim. 1989. The collector's quest. American Nurseryman. 169(1): 56-65. [12243]
22. Sperry, O. E.; Dollahite, J. W.; Hoffman, G. O.; Camp, B. J. 1964. Texas plants poisonous to livestock. Report B-1028. College Station, TX: Texas A&M University, Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Texas Agricultural Extension Service. 59 p. [23510]
23. Sullivan, Gerald; Chavez, Pedro I. 1981. Mexican good-luck charm potentially dangerous. Veterinary and Human Toxicology. 23(4): 259-260. [12240]
24.USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. 2018. PLANTS Database, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service (Producer). Available: [34262]
25. Van Auken, O. W.; Ford, A. L.; Allen, J. L. 1981. An ecological comparison of upland deciduous and evergreen forests of central Texas. American Journal of Botany. 68(9): 1249-1256. [10559]
26. Van Auken, O. W.; Ford, A. L.; Stein, A. 1979. A comparison of some woody upland and riparian plant communities of the southern Edwards Plateau. The Southwestern Naturalist. 24(1): 165-180. [10489]
27. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
28. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
29. Wood, Carl E.; Wood, Judith K. 1989. Riparian forests of the Leona and Sabinal Rivers. Texas Journal of Science. 41(4): 395-412. [11869]

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