Kalmia latifolia L. - Mountain Laurel


 

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Kalmia latifolia - (image 1 of 9)

 

Taxonomy

Family: Ericaceae

Habitat

Rocky or sandy woods.

Associates

In pine barrens frequently found with Gaultheria procumbens, Pteridium aquilinum, Vaccinium angustifolia.

Distribution

Canada south to MI, New England (some authors exclude it from southwest MI); in mountain to GA.

Morphology

Medium to large, robust, evergreen shrub, to 30' high, more typically 15'. Leaves shiny, deep green above, yellow-green bellow, alternate, sometimes opposite or whorled, simple, entire, elliptic to elliptic-lanceolate, to 5" long and 1.5" wide, acute or short-acuminate; petiole to 1" long. Stems bronze, sticky when young; bark becoming red brown and exfoliating with age; reminds me of old grape vines. Flowers white to pink, 1" across, in 4-6" terminal corymbs (I have seen some closer to a foot wide). Fruit a brown, 5-parted, dehiscent capsule, 1/4" across, persisting in winter.

Notes

Flowers June to July

Wetland indicator: Facultative

Older specimens tend to become open and sparse, particularly below the canopy. The gnarled and twisted trunks of mature specimens are attractive. An excellent ornamental shrub where conditions are suitable. It does poorly in heavy soils. It does best in acid, moist, well-drained soils in almost full sun or deep shade.

Bibliography

Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants:
Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses.
5th ed. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing L.L.C.

 

Swink, F. and G. Wilhelm. 1994. Plants of the Chicago Region.
Indiana Academy of Science. The Morton Arboretum. Lisle, Illinois.

 


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 Michael Hough 2005