Alpine Laurel (Kalmia microphylla)

Vickie Emms

Anola, MB., Canada

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Artist's Description

Family: Ericaceae, Heath

Featured in Wildflowers of North America – May 18, 2011

Genus: Kalmia
Synonym: K. polifolia. Other names: Small Bog-laurel, Swamp-laurel
General: evergreen shrub, 5-20 cm tall, much branched, often matted, spreading by layering and short rhizomes, young stems short-hairy but soon becoming hairless.
Leaves: opposite, dark green, glossy and hairless above, grayish and very finely and densely granular-short-hairy beneath, entire, usually rolled under at edges, the blades mostly oblong-lanceolate to narrowly oblong or
linear-elliptic, 1-2 cm long, the stalks 2-5 mm long.
Flowers: deep pinkish-rose, saucer-shaped, 5-12 mm broad, in loose clusters at stem tips. Flower stalks 1-4 cm long, hairless. Sepals ovate, 2-3 mm long, sparsely hairy on edges, otherwise hairless. Stamens about equaling the
style, slightly protruding, filaments densely hairy just above the base, otherwise hairless.
Flowering time: June-September.
Fruits: capsules, almost round, 2-3 mm long, splittinginto 5 valves.

Moist to wet, open sites and meadows, subalpine and alpine zones, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from AK and the Yukon through B.C., WA, OR, CA and CO.
Swamp laurel is a very poisonous narcotic plant. Experimental poisoning of sheep has caused such symptoms as depression, salivation, loss of appetite, and vomiting. Grating of teeth and frequent vomiting was noticed in more severe cases. The leaves have been used by some native North American Indian tribes to commit suicide. The leaves are considered a good external treatment for many skin diseases and inflammation. The leaves are astringent and sedative. The Kwakwaka’wakw Indians used the plant as an antihemorrhagic, by making a decoction of leaves used for vomiting and spitting blood. They have been used externally to make a poultice or a wash in the treatment of many skin diseases, open sores, wounds that will not heal and inflammation. Used internally, the leaves have been shown to have a favorable effect in the treatment of active hemorrhages, diarrhea and flux. They should be used with great caution however, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.
Wilcox Creek Hiking Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada.
Panasonic Lumix DMC ZS1

Artwork Comments

  • SelinaJ
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  • kalaryder
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