Kalmia (Mountain Laurel)
Kalmia is a genus of about 7 species of evergreen shrubs from 0.2-5 m tall, in the family Ericaceae. They are native to North America and Cuba.
Kalmia is named after the Finnish botanist Pehr Kalm, who collected it in eastern North America.
The leaves are 2-12 cm long, simple lanceolate, and arranged spirally on the stems. The flowers are white, pink or purple, in corymbs of 10-50, reminiscent of Rhododendron flowers but flatter, with a star-like calyx of five conjoined petals; each flower is 1-3 cm diameter. The fruit is a five-lobed capsule, which splits to release the numerous small seeds.
The foliage is toxic if eaten, with sheep being particularly prone to poisoning, hence the name lambkill used for some of the species. Other names for Kalmia, particularly Kalmia angustifolia, are sheep-laurel, lamb-kill, calf-kill, kill-kid, and sheep-poison, which may be written with or without the hyphen. "Kid" here refers to a young goat, not a human child, but the foliage and twigs are toxic to humans as well.
Kalmias are popular garden shrubs, grown for their decorative flowers. They should not be planted where they are accessible to livestock due to the toxicity.
Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep-laurel) is a flowering plant in the family Ericaceae, which is often used like an ornamental plant. It has attractive small, deep crimson-pink flowers that occur early summer. The low shrub may be only six inches high, or it may attain three feet. The narrow evergreen leaves, pale on the underside, have a tendency to form groups of threes, standing upright when newly put forth, but bent downward with the weight of age. A peculiarity of the plant is that clusters of leaves usually terminate the woody stem, for the flowers grow in whorls or in clusters at the side of it below. It is also known as Lamb-kill, Wicky, Calf-kill, Sheep-poison, Narrow-leaved Laurel and Sheep Laurel, its folk-names testifying chiefly to the plant's toxicity in pasture.
Kalmia polifolia - Bog-laurel is an evergreen shrub of cold acidic bogs, in the family Ericaceae. It is native to north-eastern North America, from Newfoundland to Hudson Bay southwards.
Its leaves are arranged oppositely on the branch. They are waxy with an entire, revolute margin. The base of the petiole is pressed against the stem. Below each leaf base there are ridges, where it appears as though a part of the leaf is curled around the circumference of the stem. This is especially noticeable lower on the plant.
Bog-laurel contains grayanotoxin, which when ingested lowers blood pressure, and may cause respiratory problems, dizziness, vomiting, or diarrhea.
Kalmia latifolia, commonly called Mountain-laurel or Spoonwood, is a flowering plant in the family Ericaceae, native to the eastern United States, from southern Maine south to northern Florida, and west to Indiana and Louisiana.
It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3-9 m tall. The leaves are 3-12 cm long and 1-4 cm wide. Its flowers are star-shaped, ranging from red to pink to white, and occurring in clusters. It blooms between May and June. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Roots are fibrous, matted.
The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. The plant often grows in large thickets, covering large areas of forest floor. In North America it becomes a tree on the mountains of the Carolinas but is a shrub further north.
It is also known as Ivybush, Calico Bush, Spoonwood (because native Americans used to make their spoons out of it), Sheep Laurel, Lambkill and Clamoun.
Kalmia cuneata - Whitewicky
Kalmia hirsuta - Hairy Mountain-laurel
Kalmia carolina - Carolina Mountain-laurel
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