Random Plant: Mountain laurel

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Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, Ericaceae) photographed 06/04/2013 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina.

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, Ericaceae) can be found in and around the Appalachian Mountains from Maine through the southeast. This shrub or small tree features thick, leathery, whorled leaves that are evergreen even in relatively cool climates. It’s perhaps best known for its dense clusters of attractive flowers. The fused petals form bell shapes that range in color from white to pink, with dark pink spots on their inner surfaces. This is also a popular ornamental, and numerous cultivars have been bred that feature more richly-colored flowers.

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Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia, Ericaceae) photographed 06/04/2013 at Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina.

Mountain laurel is also extremely toxic if ingested. It’s particularly dangerous to foraging livestock, and one of the other common names is “lambkill.” While humans don’t generally go around eating random plants they can still accidentally ingest it. Bees may collect pollen and nectar from mountain laurel and turn it into honey. This honey incorporates the toxic compounds found in the plant, and unwitting humans who consume the honey can be poisoned.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Botany, National Parks, Random Plant and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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