Mountain Laurel

May 25th, 2011
Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia)

The Mountain Laurel is once again in bloom. Last year it had very few flowers and I was afraid it might not come back.  Not to worry, that plant has been there a long time. It was a large leggy shrub in the woods next to the driveway when we bought the property and it’s still a large leggy shrub. Those flowers, like our native azaleas, are way above my head. I timidly snipped a few branches back to try to thicken it up, but it really needs more drastic pruning and I just can’t make myself do it.

I’ve written about this plant and its smaller sibling before in detail (exactly three years ago), so I won’t repeat myself. That post has more and better photos and includes a tidbit about the unusual flower structure in relation to bees. But I didn’t mention anything about the history of Kalmia. The genus Kalmia was named by Carolus Linneaus himself, for his student Pehr (Peter) Kalm, who botanized his way through eastern North America in the mid-1700s, collecting plant samples to send back to Sweden. You can read Kalm’s own account of Mountain Laurel, or “spoon tree” as he called it, at the American Journeys website. I don’t see a way to link directly to the page, but Kalm describes it beginning on page 262.

A few other notable and native wildflowers in bloom on this Wildflower Wednesday are Venus’s Looking Glass (Triodanis perfoliata), Whorled Loosestrife (Lysimachia quadrifolia), Cut-leaf Evening Primrose (Oenothera lacinata) and Blue-eyed Grass (Sisyrinchium angustifolium).

10 Responses to “Mountain Laurel”

  1. linda says:

    They are beautiful! I had a mountain laurel in the garden at my last house – like yours it was a leggy shrub, but I sure did love those blooms!

  2. Racquel says:

    Beautiful! I really must find a spot for this beautiful native shrub. 🙂

    • entangled says:

      I hope you do find a spot and that it prospers there. They really are nice shrubs.

  3. gail says:

    I want to grow this shrub…It caught my eye years ago but, I have been certain it would not thrive and break my heart! I will have to enjoy yours~glad for the link to your previous post. Happy WW! gail

    • entangled says:

      I couldn’t get them to live, never mind thrive, at our previous property. I thought you’d like the bee story 🙂

  4. There are so many wonderful new colors being introduced to this family. It is the PA state flower, growing still more in wild areas than in cultivated ones. Thanks for the history lesson.

    I would encourage you to be bold & brave about pruning. Never remove more than a third, and do it right after its bloom so that it makes flowers for next year. Also, add some good composted leaf litter to it this summer. You will not regret it when it is covered in flowers in a few years!

    Julie

    • entangled says:

      I didn’t know it was the PA state flower – they made a beautiful choice! I will try harder to prune it, really I will….

  5. Hi there! Just read your article on the laurel. I have trimmed so many laurels in the last 20 years.. I live on a 1 1/2 acre wooded lot and the entire under storage is Mountain Laurel. Bloom season is amazing! I named my studio after my laurel and my site is still in its design phase. The laurel can handle a lot when it comes to trimming and will for the most part just develop more branches. Whats a sure killer is taking away its acidic sources and thats why they love the leaves and woods!

    • entangled says:

      Thanks for the info and encouragement. I still haven’t pruned that shrub. Maybe later today 🙂

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