Laburnum, sometimes called golden chain, is native to the mountains of southern Europe, and here on the left coast, its flowers herald the beginning of spring.
All parts of the plant are poisonous, especially the fruit, which develops as a pod. Symptoms of poisoning include convulsions, coma, and a slight frothing at the mouth, among other things equally distasteful. Why anyone would want to eat laburnum might be a mystery, though it has been used as a poison in earlier times.
On a more positive note, laburnum has been used for cabinetmaking and musical instruments like flutes. At one time it was a popular wood for the making of the most beautiful sounding of all musical instruments: the bagpipes.
For us, it's become a sign of spring, warm weather and the coming months of summer. Just don't eat it.
Photos by Jeem. Copyright 2016 by Jim Murray.