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Tried and True Native Plant Selections
for the Mid-Atlantic
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Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
This handsome, native, eastern North American* evergreen is the State Flower of Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Its glossy, leathery leaves make lovely winter-season decorations that were so popular in the early twentieth century that Connecticut passed a law in 1917 to protect Mountain Laurels from being stolen from private property to sell.** The Virginia Native Plant Society named Mountain Laurel as Wildflower of the Year in 1994.
*It is more or less common throughout the Mid-Atlantic except in the outer Coastal Plain of VA where it is infrequent.
**As part of its criminal law reform, CT repealed the Laurel Law in 1969.
Video © 2020 Mary Free
Mountain laurel flowers dispense pollen in a unique manner. Their stamens act like catapults: the pollen-bearing tips (anthers) are secured in pockets at the edge of the petals, so that when the flower opens, the stalks (filaments) of the stamens arch backward under tension. When a visitor seeks nectar in the center of the flower, its weight dislodges the stamens, which spring up flinging pollen onto the visitor’s body at a speed of about 11.5 feet/second. If you are not fortunate enough to observe how a stamen reacts with an insect, then try it yourself by tapping the arched stamen with a pen or pencil. You can see close-ups of secured and dislodged stamens in this video.
Learn more about other Mid-Atlantic plants:
Tried and True Native Plant Fact Sheets