Connecticut State Flower - Mountain Laurel

Connecticut isn’t the only state to have fallen in love with the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). It is also Pennsylvania’s state flower. Because Connecticut’s Native American tribes used the mountain laurel to make spoons, locals frequently refer to the shrub as spoonwood. Mountain laurels large clusters of showy flowers became Connecticut’s state flower in 1907.

Facts

A reporter for the “Hartford Courant” describes Connecticut’s state flower as “cupcake like,” and if you’ve ever seen one, you know it is a perfect description. Mountain laurel is a shrub in the heath family that blooms in clusters of 1 inch wide pink or white flowers from May through July. The shrub typically grows from 4 to 10 feet in height but is capable of reaching 40 feet. Mountain laurel is commonly found in all eight of Connecticut’s counties, predominantly in the understory of rocky woods.

History

The mountain laurel has some famous names behind its discovery. According to the State of Connecticut, the plant was first described in Captain John Smith's “General History” in 1624. It wasn’t until more than 125 years later that mountain laurel specimens were sent to Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus, who promptly dubbed the plant Kalmia latifolia.

Cultivation Notes

Mountain laurel is related to blueberries and azaleas, and like its relatives, it requires acidic soil. It also thrives when the soil is moist and cool. Provide the mountain laurel a position in either full sun or shade, but bear in mind that maximum flowers are produced when the plant receives lots of sunshine. Kalmia latifolia is parent to over 75 cultivars, many available at Connecticut’s nurseries and gardening centers.

Viewing

Although it is commonly cultivated in residential gardens, seeing the mountain laurel shrub in nature is the best way to appreciate its beauty. Reporter Steve Grant of the “Hartford Courant” suggests visiting Nipmuck State Forest or Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth. Good views of mountain laurel in bloom are also afforded along Route 9 in Middletown, Interstate 95 in southeast Connecticut, and the Merritt Parkway.

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