Kalmia latifolia; Ericaceae (heath family)
I don’t usually play favorites, but if I had to choose a favorite plant family, it would be the Ericaceae. Something about the overall form and color of ericaceous plants (not just the flowers) is incredibly appealing.
Mountain laurel is a tall understory shrub, preferring a rocky habitat and acidic soils. It’s evergreen, but often with very sparse foliage, and the form is lanky. Look closely at the picture above and you’ll see all these empty branches curling around. In recent years the nursery industry has developed kalmia cultivars with more compact forms, better suited to gardens, but I think they look like glorified rhododendrons. I like the plant the way nature designed it.
Other ericaceous plants you might be familiar with:
- azaleas and rhododendrons
- blueberries and cranberries
- bear berry
- trailing arbutus
- Japanese pieris
- heaths and heathers
- sourwood (delicious honey!)