Author: Samuel L Haupt, Jr.

Table of Contents


Description:"The genus Kalimiais regarded as relatively primitive (in an evolutionary sense) member of the Ericaceae.""The laurels are a purely North American genus, occuring from Alaska south to the mountains of California and Utah, east through Canada to the Atlantic Ocean, and south through the eastern United States to Florida and Cuba. All the species are low to medium-sized shrubs or rarely small trees, usually with leathery, evergreen, entire margined, mostly short-petioled leaves that are alternate opposite, or whorled."(cited from Jaynes,1997)

Historical Background:"One of the first detailed accounts of laurels is found in the journal of Peter Kalm. This Swedish botanist, a student of Carolus Linnaeus, was sent to the New World in 1748 by the Swedish Academy of Science. His mission was to obtain seeds of plants hardy enough to thrive on Swedish soil and in particular, to discover dye plants, new food and fodder crops, and hardy mulberry trees to develop a silk industry. During his three years in America Kalm's explorations extended throught Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey and into Southern Canada." According to Jaynes, Kalm kept a journal recording lifestyles of the colonists as well as native plants the used. "In this journal he describes in detail the poisonous properties of the laurel trees."(cited from Jaynes, 1997)

"Upon his return to Europe, Kalm gave his collection of about 380 species of plants to Carolus Linnaeus, the Swedish naturalist and taxonomist. It was from this material that Linnaeus published a dissertation in which he proposed the generic name Kalmiato honor the collector. In this publication both mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia, and sheep laurel, K. angustifolia, were named and distinguished form other species. Linnaeus included both in his Species Planitarum(1753), making the names official."(cited from Jaynes,1997)

Higher Taxonomy

(Mabberley, 1996)







Species List

  • (Jaynes,1997)

    K. angustifolia - sheep laurel
    K. cuneata - white wicky
    K. ericoides - Cuban laurel
    K. hirsuta - sandhill laurel
    K. latifolia - mountain laurel
    K. microphylla - western laurel
    K. polifolia - eastern bog laurel

    Identification Guide

    Kalmia:"Shrubs, rarely small trees, with pubescent twigs, often glabrate in age. Leaves alternate or whorled, very rarely opposite entire. Flowers in terminal compound corymbs or in simple corymbs or fascicles in the leaf axils on second year growth, or 1-3 in the leaf axils of new growth. Sepals 5; petals united for at least 1/2 their length, corolla white or pink, 5 lobed, lobes shallow; stamens 10, the anthers fitting into small pockets in the corolla before anthesis; stigma capitate, style long. Capsule 5-locular, spliting from top to bottom. Seeds light brown lustrous, striate, 0.3-1mm long not caudate."(cited from Ahles, Bell, Radford, 1974)

    Guide to Species of Kalmia:(cited from Jaynes,1997)


    1. Jaynes, Richard A. 1997. Kalmia Mountain Laurel and Related Species. Timber Press, Inc. Portland, Oregon

    2. Jones, S.B. & N.C. Coile. 1988. Distribution of the Vascular Flora of Georgia. Dept. of Botany, University of Georgia. Athens, GA.

    3. Radford, A.E., H.E. Ahles & C.R. Bell. 1968. Manual of the Vascular Flora of the Carolinas. University of North Carolina Press. Chapel Hill, NC.

    4. Chester, Edward A., B. Eugene Wofford & Robert Kral. PN. #13. Atlas of Tennessee Vascular Plants Vol. 2. The Center for Field Biology Austin Peay State University. Clarkesville, TN.

    5. Mabberley, D.J.1966. The Plant Book. Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. New York, NY.