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The Mountain Laurel is one of the most beautiful wildflowers I’ve ever seen in the wilds of Pennsylvania’s mountains. The flowers are amazing! They represent spring’s total renewal of life in the mountains of the north eastern United States. The buds start out as a pink enclosed bloom, that looks a bit like a tiny Japanese paper lantern. You can see one of the new pink buds near the center of the shot.
As the bloom matures, it opens up into a mostly white pentagonal shaped flower, with a very unusual pattern of stamen that fan out and make contact with the five point petal. The anthers deposit their maroon pigmented pollen on the petal, creating a really lovely decoration. The base of the pistil is also encircled by a thin maroon ring. I could barely take my eye away from the viewfinder while I was studying the blossoms that I was shooting.
Mountain Laurel is also known as Spoonwood, because the American Indians used the wood from this shrub to make spoons. The scientific name is Kalmia latifolia. It is a flowering plant that is related to the blueberry family, but it looks a lot like a rhododendron bush to me. They are native to the eastern United States and can be found in mountainous regions from “Down East” Maine, all the way south to the panhandle of Florida.
All parts of the shrub, leaves and flowers are poisonous to humans and larger animals. However, the leaves, when crushed into a thick green paste, are extremely effective for the treatment of poison ivy rash. It works far better than Calamine lotion or even Aloe.
Mountain Laurel is the official state flower of Pennsylvania (where this particular specimen was found).
This photo was captured on the evening of June 17th, 2011 at the top of the mountain overlooking Oval, Pennsylvania. I saw the flowers from Route 44 and hiked into the woods to find some undisturbed examples to photograph. The plants near the road were not in perfect condition, they had ugly brown leaf spots, but the flowers up on the stony slope were fresh and perfect.
This photo was captured with a Canon EOS 10D camera with a Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM prime lens. The shutter speed was at 1/250th second with an aperture of f/5.6. The camera’s ISO was set to 100. A Manfrotto tripod was used with a Manfrotto 222 head.
This image is “Straight From The Camera”, no cropping or adjustments of any kind were applied.
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© 2011 Gene Walls
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