Posted by ILPARW
(southeast Pennsylvania - Zone 6b) on Jan 1, 2018 2:22 PM concerning plant:
The Common Mountainlaurel has a native range from southern Maine down to northwest Florida, most of Alabama, parts of Mississippi, much of Kentucky & Tennessee, and eastern & southern Ohio, in swamps, meadows, and upland woods in acid soils ranging from draining wet to dry. It is slow growing of about half to 1 foot/year. It has smooth, glossy, leathery leaves about 3 to 4 inches long, borne alternately or in whorls. It bears white to pink star-like or bell-shaped or bowl-shaped flowers in flat-topped large terminal clusters in June with a nice fragrant scent. It bears little dry, brown fruits of 5-valved capsules from September until March. It has a brown to red-brown scaly-furrowed bark much like Pieris. It has a dense, shallow, fibrous root system and is easy to transplant. It is sold many nurseries in the East and some in the Midwest. In landscapes it can do well if it is planted in a shrub border or bed with mulch around it and shelter from winds, heat, and drought. I've seen a good number do poorly and even die out in landscapes in its native range because of some bad factor. It can be temperamental.
Posted by mellielong
(Lutz, Florida - Zone 9b) on Apr 10, 2015 6:00 PM concerning plant:
"How to Know the Wildflowers" (1922) by Mrs. William Starr Dana has a lot of interesting information about this plant. First, as to its name, Kalmia was named by Linnaeus after Peter Kalm, one of his pupils. Another name for the plant, Spoonwood, came from its use by the Indians for making eating utensils. It is said that the wood is of fine grain and takes a good polish. The name Calico Bush may have come from the markings of the corolla which might suggest the cheap cotton prints sold in stores.
The shrub was highly prized and carefully cultivated in England. According to the author, Barewood Gardens (then the home of the editor of the London Times) was celebrated for its specimens. The English papers would announce the flowering season and the estate would open for visitors to come view the flowers. The author apparently had trouble convincing the head gardener of the estate that in parts of America, "the waste hillsides were brilliant with its beauty every June."
The author also points out that this is not the laurel of the ancients which was a symbol of victory and fame, although its leaves are similar in appearance. The leaves of Kalmia latifolia were said to be poisonous and supposedly used by the Indians for suicidal purposes. There was also a popular belief that the flesh of a partridge that had fed upon its fruit would become poisonous.