Pennsylvania State Flower - Mountain Laurel

Native to Pennsylvania, the plant thrives in the mountainous regions of the state.

Native to Pennsylvania, the plant thrives in the mountainous regions of the state.

Every spring, colorful mountain laurels bloom across the Pennsylvania countryside. The white and pink blooms continue to flourish through the month of June, drawing tourists from all over to view the widespread display. Despite rumors to the contrary, the state flower does not enjoy a protected status, though it is illegal to pick any plant on public or private land without permission.


Pennsylvania is one of the 13 original colonies. In the early 1930s, legislators in the state passed two bills to designate the state flower. One bill suggested the pink azalea be named the official flower, while the other bill promoted the mountain laurel. In May 1933, Governor Gifford Pinchot named the mountain laurel as the official state flower in Pennsylvania.


Mountain laurel is an evergreen shrub in the heath family, which also includes huckleberries, azaleas, rhododendrons and cranberries. The shrub grows best on rocky hillsides and can reach anywhere from 4 to 10 feet high. The dark green leaves of the shrub are lance-shaped and leathery.


Pennsylvanians are encouraged to grow mountain laurel. It’s widely used as ornamental shrubbery around homes and businesses. The shrubs require soil that’s kept cool, moist and well-drained. Flowers bloom best in full sunlight, but the shrubs prosper in both sunny and shaded environments. Transplanting mountain laurel from its natural habitat is difficult, so most landscapers purchase small shrubs from a nursery. If you receive a potted mountain laurel shrub, you can transfer it to your garden for years of perennial growth.


The most common disease that strikes the mountain laurel is leaf spot, according to the Penn State Extension Center. Shrubs that sit in pooling water are most at risk for developing the large brown spots on their leaves. Fungicides are used to treat the disease, which spreads easily without intervention.


In addition to adding beauty to a landscape, mountain laurel serves as a deterrent for gypsy moths, common to the northeastern state. Gypsy moth caterpillars thrive in Pennsylvania and feed on the barks of trees such as the hemlock, apple, aspen, birch and poplar. The damaging insects avoid mountain laurel, so planting the shrubs throughout your yard can keep the bugs at bay. Other plants that serve to deter the gypsy moth include ferns, black walnuts, sycamore and rhododendrons.

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