Sugarloaf, May 5


pinxter azalea in all its glory



Went back to Sugarloaf Mountain on May 5 and spent all morning hunting for lady slipper orchids. I didn’t find any, but I did find some other things that I haven’t seen before (more about those in the next few days). The list of plants in bloom:

  • sweet cicely
  • dwarf cinquefoil
  • Indian cucumber root
  • flowering dogwood
  • common fleabane
  • mountain laurel (just two buds open)
  • pinxter azalea
  • Rubus species (unknown which, probably a dewberry or blackberry)
  • rue anemone
  • Gray’s sedge
  • wild sarsaparilla
  • false Solomon’s seal (buds not quite open)
  • marsh blue violet
  • ovate-leaved violet
  • spotted wintergreen (buds)

Also I saw great stands of royal fern and cinnamon fern, and some nice specimens of scrub pine (Pinus virginiana) and white pine (Pinus strobus).

Most trees seem to be fully leafed out but the leaves are still small and pale; on that gloomy, misty morning the pinxters stood out like beacons in the forest. Mountain laurel buds are swollen, and by the time this post is published they should be opening. Since mountain laurel is one of the dominant understory plants at Sugarloaf, it will be a fabulous show.


mountain laurel about to pop

What’s Green Now? Mountain Laurel


Kalmia latifolia; Ericaceae

Not much to look at now, but in this season of gray and brown, I’ll take what I can get.  Mountain laurel is a close relative of the familiar garden plants rhododendron and azalea. In the wild it can get to ten feet in height, with a rambling, open form and a tendency to grow in thickets.  The ones I’ve seen in the mid-Atlantic piedmont tend to be sparsely clad with leaves.


Here’s what we can look forward to, starting about mid-May:


Lots of detailed information about mountain laurel.