Kalmia latifolia L. - Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia plant

Family - Ericaceae

Stems:

Kalmia latifolia bark

Leaves:

Kalmia latifolia leaves

Inflorescence:

Kalmia latifolia inflorescence

Flowers:

Kalmia latifolia calyxCalyx.

Kalmia latifolia flower

Flowering - March - June.

Habitat - Bluffs, creeks, swamps, rocky or sandy woods. Also cultivated.

Origin - Native to North America.

Other information - This striking shrub can be found throughout Alabama but is most common in the mountain areas. The plant can be identified by its thick, dark-green leaves, shredding bark, and typically twisted trucks. The flowers of Kalmia are distinctive and often have dark reddish-purple spots internally. These spots are small pouches that hold the spring-loaded stamens of the flower. When a bug lands on the flower the stamens thrust outward and deliver pollen to the oblivious insect.
The pubescence of the corolla, calyx, and pedicels of the plant is variable.
This species is very toxic and no parts of the plant should be eaten. Honey derived from the plant is even considered to be poisonous. The wood should not be used for eating utensils.
The genus Kalmia was named by Linnaeus after a student of his, Peter Kalm. Kalm lived from 1716 to 1779 and made excursions to Canada and the eastern United States.
The species epithet "latifolia" means "broad-leaved" in Latin.

Alabama Distribution:

Kalmia latifolia map

Photographs taken at Hanging Rock State Park, NC., 5-14-03.


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