Scientific name: Anthophyta: Dicotyledonae: Ericales: Ericaceae: Kalmia latifolia
Common Name: Information Sheet, Mountain Laurel
Date: 24 June 2001
Photographer: E. M. Barrows
Identifier: E. M. Barrows
Collector: not applicable
Location: Lebanon State Forest
Keywords: A bush Forest Ecology information sheet Lebanon State Forest Mountain Laurel Pine Barrens pink flower shrub tree white flower
Mountain Laurel by Parkin Pond.
A closer view of Mountain Laurel.
These are late flowers; most plants in the area had finished blooming.
Information Sheet, Mountain Laurel
Kalmia latifoli a Linnaeus, Mountain Laurel (= Calico-bush, Ivy, Ivy-bush, and Spoonwood) (Ericaceae, Heath Family)
(Sutton & Sutton 1985 plates 148,436, 484; Petrides 1988, plate 46; Kricher & Morrison 1998, 14, 247)
To see more information about Mountain Laurel on this Website, please use "keyword" Mountain Laurel.
Mountain Laurel is native to New England, New York, Ohio, and Indiana south through Florida and Louisiana (Fernald 1950, 1121).
A small tree, up to 40 feet tall, often under 20 feet tall.
Leaves: mostly alternate, leathery, oval, hairless, without teeth, stalked, to 5 inches long.
Trunk: often oblique, up to 0.5 feet across, short, stout, usually forking into a number of divergent branches which form a compact, rounded crown.
Flowers: terminal, numerous, white through pink-rose with purple markings, up to 1 inch wide.
Mountain Laurel tends to be a shrubby tree in the northern part of its range and a small tree in the southern parts of its range.
Beautiful in flower.
Toxic to Humans if ingested.
The larger plants are in the southern Appalachians.
A gigantic specimen in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is 6 feet and 10 inches in diameter at its base and has one limb 2.5 feet in diameter (Grimm 1957, 317).
General roles in forests.
Mountain Laurels are autotrophs that generally live in forests, forest edges, successional areas, and yards.
Many kinds of organisms consume dead and living Mountain Laurel fruits, leaves, roots, and stems.
Specific roles in forests.
One beetle sp., 2 borer spp., 1 bug sp., 1 beetle sp., 17 fungus spp., 4 scale spp., 1 weevil sp., 1 whitefly sp., and the White-tailed Deer (Horst 1990, 696; Westcott 1973, 568) consume vegetative parts of ML. Deer often browse on Mountain Laurel, but it might have low food value (Grimm 1957, 318).
Many kinds of arthropods consume Mountain Laurel nectar, pollen, or both; they include beetle spp., butterfly spp., the Large Carpenter Bee, other bee spp., flower-fly spp., other fly spp., moth spp., and wasp spp.
Honey Bees make toxic honey from Mountain Laurel nectar. Dr. J. Grammer, a confederate surgeon during the Civil War, was probably poisoned from Mountain Laurel honey.
He reported that is an extremely distressing narcotic, and saw its effects in other people (Pellett 1978, 217).
Kalmia hirsuta (Wickey) is a source of surplus honey in Georgia; K. angustifolia is an important honey source in Nova Scotia.
We frequently grow Mountain Laurel as an ornamental.
There are many cultivars including a dark pink one.
Mountain Laurel grows from seeds and transplants easily.
We use Mountain Laurel wood for briar tobacco pipes, bucket handles, fuel, tool handles, and turnery.
Formerly, people frequently used its leafy twigs to make evergreen garlands for Christmas (Bell and Lindsey 1990, 32).
Leaves poison livestock.
Sucking on flowers and playing with leaves poisoned children (Foster and Caras 1994, 158).
Poisoning symptoms include abdominal cramps, cardiac disturbances (including low blood pressure and slow pulse), convulsions, DEATH, diarrhea, itching and burning of mucous membranes and skin, mouth burning, paralysis, salivation, vomiting, and watery eyes and nose.
Blooming patches of Mountain Laurels make spectacular displays on the Dolly Sods, WV, (in June) and elsewhere in the Appalachians.
West Virginia Forester Jim Kockenderfer takes his mother to the Sods to see the pink clouds of these plants.
Fernald, M. L.
Gray's Manual of Botany.
American Book Company, New York, NY.