Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Taxonomy
Kalmia angustifolia L.
ERICACEAE (Heath Family)
EtymologyKalmia is named for Pehr Kalm (1715-79), a naturalist and student of Linnaeus; angustifolia means narrow-leaved, from the Latin angustus = narrow + folium = leaf.
Synonyms (Common Name)Lambkill, Dwarf Laurel, Pig Laurel, Wicky
DescriptionWhen sheep laurel is in bloom, woods and peatlands are suffused with a brilliant, magenta glow. Sheep laurel is a medium (to 5 1/2'), evergreen, ericaceous shrub with slender, round branches and smooth, brown bark. The leaves contain acetylandromedol, which is toxic to livestock and people; hence, its nickname "lambkill."
Wetland indicator statusFAC
Plant Heightto 5.5 feet
LeavesEvergreen, opposite or in whorls of three, simple, entire, 1-2 1/2" long; oblong to elliptical; smooth, shiny green above, paler below; crowded on the branch; older leaves droop downward; POISONOUS.
Flower/InflorescenceDeep pink to magenta, 1/2" wide, saucer-shaped with 5 lobes; not terminal -- borne in clusters above older leaves and beneath newest, topmost growth. (Laurel flowers have 10 stamens with pollen-laden anthers that are "sprung" from pockets in the corolla by insect pollinators.)
Flowering PeriodMay-July
FruitTiny (1/8"), round, 5-parted capsules; clustered under top leaves.
Fruiting PeriodAugust-October, persisting throughout winter.
HabitatBogs, pond margins, wooded swamps, moist and upland forests, acid soils.
RangeNewfoundland and Labrador to Manitoba, south to Virginia and Michigan.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett