Mountain Laurel

Kalmia latifolia L.

Other common names: Broad-leaved laurel, broad-leaved kalmia, American laurel, sheep laurel, rose laurel, spurge laurel, small laurel, wood laurel, kalmia, calico bush, spoonwood, spoon-hunt, ivy bush, big-leaved ivy, wicky, calmoun.

Habitat and range: The mountain laurel is found in sandy or rocky soil in woods from New Brunswick south to Ohio, Florida, and Louisiana.

Description: This is an evergreen shrub from about 4 to 20 feet in height, with leathery leaves, and when in flower it is one of the most beautiful and showy of our native plants. It has very stiff branches and leathery oval or elliptical leaves borne on stems, mostly alternate, pointed at both ends, with margins entire, smooth and bright green on both sides, and having terminal, clammy-hairy clusters of flowers, which appear from about May to June. The buds are rather oddly shaped and fluted, at first of a deep rose color, expanding into saucer-shaped, more delicately tinted, whitish-pink flowers. Each saucer-shaped flower is provided with 10 pockets holding the anthers of the stamens, but from which these free themselves elastically when the flower is fully expanded. The seed capsule is somewhat globular, the calyx and threadlike style remaining attached until the capsules open. Mountain laurel, which belongs to the heath family (Ericaceae), is poisonous to sheep and calves.

Collection, prices, and uses: The leaves, which bring about 3 to 4 cents a pound, are collected in the fall. They are used for their astringent properties.

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