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Calia secundiflora flowers and leaves
Calia secundiflora flowers and leaves
Plant Info
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Scientific classification
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Kingdom: Plantae
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Division: Magnoliophyta
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Class: Magnoliopsida
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Order: Fabales
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Superfamily: {{{superfamilia}}}
Family: Fabaceae
Subfamily: Faboideae
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Tribe: Sophoreae
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Genus: Calia
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See text.

The Mescalbean, Mescal Bean or Frijolito (Calia) is a genus of three or four species of shrubs or small trees in the subfamily Faboideae of the pea family Fabaceae. The genus is native to southwestern North America from western Texas to New Mexico and Arizona in the United States, and south through Chihuahua, Coahuila and Nuevo León in northern Mexico.

Although still commonly treated in the genus Sophora, recent genetic evidence has shown that the mescalbeans are only distantly related to the other species of Sophora.


  • Calia arizonica (S. Watson) Yakovlev - Arizona Mescalbean (syn. Sophora arizonica). Arizona, Chihuahua.
    • Calia arizonica subsp. formosa (Kearney & Peebles) Yakovlev (syn. Calia formosa, Sophora arizonica subsp. formosa, Sophora formosa). Arizona.
  • Calia gypsophila - Guadalupe Mescalbean (syn. Sophora gypsophila). Southern New Mexico, west Texas, Coahuila; endangered.
  • Calia secundiflora (Ortega) Yakovlev - Texas Mescalbean (syn. Sophora secundiflora). Texas, New Mexico, Coahuila, Nuevo León.
Seed pods

Mescalbeans grow to 1-11 m tall, with a trunk up to 20 cm diameter, often growing in dense thickets reproducing from root sprouts. The leaves are evergreen, leathery, 6-15 cm long, pinnate with 5-11 oval leaflets, 2-5 cm long and 1-3 cm broad. The flowers, produced in spring, are fragrant, purple, typical pea-flower in shape, borne in erect or spreading racemes 4-10 cm long. The fruit is a hard, woody legume 2-15 cm long, containing 1-6 oval bright red seeds 1-1.5 cm long and 1 cm diameter.

All parts of the mescalbeans are very poisonous, containing the alkaloid cytisine (not mescaline, as suggested by the name). The seeds or other parts of the plant have been reported to have been used as a hallucinogen by some Native American people, but this is uncertain, due to confusion over names. The symptoms of cytisine poisoning are very unpleasant, including nausea and seizures; as little as one seed can be fatal.

Mescalbeans are sometimes mistakenly called "Mountain-laurel", a name that properly refers to the very dissimilar and unrelated genus Kalmia (family Ericaceae).


  • The relationship of Sophora sect. Edwardsia (Fabaceae) to Sophora tomentosa, the type species of the genus Sophora, observed from DNA sequence data and morphological characters. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 146: 439-446 (2004). Available online.
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