Observation Highlight of the Week: Kalmia latifolia

Observational Highlight #6: Kalmia latifolia (Mountain Laurel)
Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve

© Jacob Saucier, all rights reserved (used with permission)

Happy New Year all!

December flew by a bit more expeditiously than I was expecting, so I will be covering the remaining EZ-2-ID plants of December in this new year :)

To start off 2021 we will be diving into one of my favorite plants of the Appalachians - the mountain laurel! It may be better known by you botanist types as Kalmia latifolia , and is a close relative of our last observational highlight, the spotted wintergreen.

Now before we jump into that relationship, let's thank iNat user and friend of the preserve @saucierj for his amazing observations of our flowering mountain laurel from last summer. This project is driven by all those curious individuals utilizing the iNaturalist application to learn more about the world around them, or those just wanting to share the extraordinary beauty that can be found along one's journey through the woods. Every observation uploaded from the preserve allows us to better understand the biodiversity that is contained within this unique ecosystem, and what organisms you all find to be interesting enough to photograph.

But now let's dig into this amazing plant.

The mountain laurel is one of my favorite species on the preserve and also one of its most recognizable! This broadleaf evergreen species is closely related to last week's observational highlight, being within the family Ericaceae. However, it might be more familiar to gardeners as a member of the genus Rhododendron . While the mountain laurel isn't displaying its beautiful floral display at this time of year, the acute, entire waxy leaves are very distinct among the relatively whimsical oak and beech leaves of the preserve's south section trails.

For those unfamiliar with leaf identification, the woody stem of the plant can offer a quick giveaway. The twisting shape and flaky bark tend to stick out among the tree seedlings and bramble that also occupies the understory. While you may encounter a stray mountain laurel in certain areas of the preserve, the plant is usually "shoulder to shoulder" with its fellow laurel. These groups of laurel can be hard to miss among the dreary browns and greys of winter.

ABOUT #BullRunMountainsNaturalPreserve
The Bull Run Mountains are the easternmost mountains in Virginia. Virginia Outdoors Foundation - Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve is approximately 2,350 acres that serve as a living laboratory that sits in the backyard of our nation’s capital. The preserve contains 10 different plant community types and a plethora of regionally uncommon and threatened plant and animal species. In 2002, this land was dedicated by the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation as a natural area preserve to protect the unique ecosystems found here. As the owner and manager of the preserve, the Virginia Outdoors Foundation is committed to protecting the special ecosystem found here and sharing it with the public through managed access.

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Publicado el enero 12, 2021 10:28 TARDE por mjwcarr mjwcarr


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