Wild Florida Photo
Nature Photography by Paul Rebmann
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Threatened Florida species
An occasional shrub of bluff forests and creek swamps from Leon County west through the panhandle, plus Suwannee County. The range extends throughout the eastern United States mostly east of the Mississippi River, but only as far west as Indiana in the north. Kalmia latifolia is listed as an exotic species in Quebec and Ontario.
This shrub is many branching and can grow to 9m (30 ft.) tall, becoming a small evergreen tree. The showy flowers appear in branched clusters in the early spring. Flowers are white to pink, cup-shaped with 10 stamens that initially have the anthers tucked into small pockets in the petals. When a pollinator lands on the flower, the spring-loaded stamens are released spreading pollen onto the insect. Leaves are closely alternate, elliptic to lanceolate, simple, entire, 2-10 (3/4-4 in.) cm long and 2.5-5 cm (1-3 in.) wide. The fruit is a small five-lobed capsule containing tiny seeds.
Kalmia latifolia is differentiated from K. hirsuta by being glabrous and over 0.5 m (20 in.) tall.
Mountain laurel can be a beautiful landscape plant, but is difficult to grow and does not transplant well, so it is best left alone after becoming established.