6; see text.
Dermatophyllum is a genus of three or four species of shrubs and 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. Members of the genus are commonly known as mescalbean, mescal bean or frijolito. One of the common names of Dermatophyllum secundiflorum is Texas mountain laurel, although the name mountain laurel also refers to the very dissimilar and unrelated genus Kalmia (family Ericaceae) and the name laurel refers generally to plants in the unrelated order Laurales.
- Dermatophyllum arizonicum (S.Watson) Vincent—Arizona Mescalbean (Arizona, Chihuahua)
- subsp. arizonicum (S.Watson) Vincent
- subsp. formosum (Kearney & Peebles) Vincent (Arizona)
- Dermatophyllum gypsophilum (B.L. Turner & A.M. Powell) Vincent—Guadalupe Mescalbean (Southern New Mexico, western Texas, Coahuila)
- Dermatophyllum guadalupense (B.L. Turner & A.M. Powell) B.L.Turner
- Dermatophyllum juanhintonianum (B.L. Turner) B.L. Turner
- Dermatophyllum secundiflorum (Ortega) Gandhi & Reveal—Texas Mescalbean (Texas, New Mexico, Coahuila, Nuevo León)
- Dermatophyllum purpusii (Brandegee) Vincent
Dermatophyllum spp. grow to 1–11 m (3.3–36.1 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 20 cm (7.9 in) in diameter, often growing in dense thickets that grow from basal shoots. The leaves are evergreen, leathery, 6–15 cm (2.4–5.9 in) long, pinnate with 5-11 oval leaflets, 2–5 centimetres (0.79–1.97 in) long and 1–3 cm (0.39–1.18 in) broad. The flowers, produced in spring, are fragrant, purple, typical pea-flower in shape, borne in erect or spreading racemes 4–10 cm (1.6–3.9 in) long. The fruit is a hard, woody seedpod 2–15 cm (0.79–5.91 in) long, containing 1-6 oval bright red seeds 1–1.5 cm (0.39–0.59 in) long and 1 cm (0.39 in) in diameter.
All parts of the mescalbeans are very poisonous, containing the alkaloid cytisine (not mescaline, as suggested by the name). Nevertheless, there is evidence of the seeds of the plant having been used in a ritualistic context as a hallucinogen by some Native American peoples. The symptoms of cytisine poisoning are very unpleasant, including nausea and seizures; as little as one seed can be fatal. This has led to speculation that the peyote cult may have developed as a relatively safe substitute for the potentially toxic mescalbean, given the close parallels in performance and divination between the two (including leaders of Plains Indian peyote rituals wearing a necklace of mescalbeans).
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