Toxic parts

The foliage is poisonous to animals[1][2][3]. The whole plant is highly toxic[4]. Cases of poisoning have occurred when livestock or game birds have been eaten after they have ingested this plant[5].

Edible uses

There are no edible uses listed for Kalmia latifolia.

Material uses

A yellow-tan dye is obtained from the leaves[6]. The plant can be grown as an informal hedge[7]. Wood - heavy, hard, strong but rather brittle. It weighs 44lb per cubic foot and is used for making small implements, tool handles etc[1][8][9][10][11]. The roots are used to make spoons etc, these are fashioned when the wood is green and soft, when dry they become very hard and smooth[12]. The wood is a good fuel[8][9].

Unknown part

Medicinal uses(Warning!)

Mountain laurel is a very poisonous narcotic plant the leaves of which were at one time used by some native North American Indian tribes in order to commit suicide[13]. Because of its toxicity, it is a remedy that is seldom used in modern herbalism[5], but the leaves have been used externally in herbal medicine and are a good remedy for many skin diseases and inflammation[13]. The leaves are analgesic, astringent, disinfectant, narcotic, salve and sedative[14]. An infusion of the leaves is used as a disinfectant wash and liniment to treat pain, scratches, rheumatism, inflammations and to get rid of body parasites[14]. Used internally, the leaves have a splendid effect in the treatment of active haemorrhages, diarrhoea and flux[13][1][9]. They are also used in the treatment of syphilis, inflammatory fevers, neuralgia, paralytic conditions, tinnitus and angina[5]. The leaves should be used with great caution however, and only under the guidance of a qualified practitioner[5]. Excess doses cause vertigo, headache, loss of sight, salivation, thirst, nausea, palpitations, slow pulse and difficulty in breathing[5]. See also the notes above on toxicity.


Ecosystem niche/layer

Ecological Functions

Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Nothing listed.


Seed - surface sow in late winter in a cool greenhouse in light shade[15][16]. Prick out the young seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle. The seedlings are rather sensitive to damping off, so water them with care, keep them well-ventilated and perhaps apply a fungicide such as garlic as a preventative. Grow the young plants on in light shade and overwinter them in the greenhouse for their first winter[15]. Plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. The seed is dust-like and remains viable for many years[16]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, August in a frame. Very poor results unless the cuttings are taken from very young plants[17][15]. Layering in August/September. Takes 18 months[15]. The plants can also be dug up and replanted about 30cm deeper in the soil to cover up some of the branches. The plant can then be dug up about 12 months later when the branches will have formed roots and can be separated to make new plants[7].

Practical Plants is currently lacking information on propagation instructions of Kalmia latifolia. Help us fill in the blanks! Edit this page to add your knowledge.


Requires an acid humus-rich soil, succeeding in part shade[18] or in full sun in cooler areas. Prefers almost full sun[17]. Dislikes dry soils[18], requiring cool, permanently moist conditions at the roots[1]. Succeeds in open woodland or along the woodland edge[7]. Plants are very cold-hardy, tolerating temperatures down to about -30°c[19]. A very ornamental plant[17], there are many named varieties[18]. This species is not very easy to grow well in Britain, it probably prefers a more continental climate[17]. This species is the state flower of Connecticut[5]. Slow to rejuvenate if the plant is cut back[7].


Problems, pests & diseases

Associations & Interactions

There are no interactions listed for Kalmia latifolia. Do you know of an interaction that should be listed here? edit this page to add it.

Polycultures & Guilds

There are no polycultures listed which include Kalmia latifolia.




None listed.


None listed.

Full Data

This table shows all the data stored for this plant.

Binomial name
Kalmia latifolia
Imported References
Edible uses
Medicinal uses
Material uses & Functions
Edible uses
None listed.
Material uses
None listed.
Medicinal uses
None listed.
Functions & Nature
Provides forage for
Provides shelter for
Hardiness Zone
Heat Zone
full sun
light shade
Soil PH
Soil Texture
Soil Water Retention
Environmental Tolerances
    Native Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Adapted Climate Zones
    None listed.
    Native Geographical Range
    None listed.
    Native Environment
    None listed.
    Ecosystem Niche
    None listed.
    Root Zone Tendancy
    None listed.
    Deciduous or Evergreen
    Herbaceous or Woody
    Life Cycle
    Growth Rate
    Mature Size
    3 x 3 meters
    Flower Colour
    Flower Type


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    2. ? Frohne. D. and Pf?nder. J. A Colour Atlas of Poisonous Plants. Wolfe ISBN 0723408394 (1984-00-00)
    3. ? Cooper. M. and Johnson. A. Poisonous Plants in Britain and their Effects on Animals and Man. HMSO ISBN 0112425291 (1984-00-00)
    4. ? Foster. S. & Duke. J. A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants. Eastern and Central N. America. Houghton Mifflin Co. ISBN 0395467225 (1990-00-00)
    5. ? Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. ISBN 0-7513-020-31 (1995-00-00)
    6. ? 6.06.1 Coon. N. The Dictionary of Useful Plants. Rodale Press ISBN 0-87857-090-x (1975-00-00)
    7. ? Huxley. A. The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press ISBN 0-333-47494-5 (1992-00-00)
    8. ? Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim (1959-00-00)
    9. ? Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable ISBN 0094579202 (1974-00-00)
    10. ? 10.010.1 Sargent. C. S. Manual of the Trees of N. America. Dover Publications Inc. New York. ISBN 0-486-20278-X (1965-00-00)
    11. ? 11.011.1 Britton. N. L. Brown. A. An Illustrated Flora of the Northern United States and Canada Dover Publications. New York. ISBN 0-486-22642-5 (1970-00-00)
    12. ? 12.012.1 Coffey. T. The History and Folklore of North American Wild Flowers. Facts on File. ISBN 0-8160-2624-6 (1993-00-00)
    13. ? Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin ISBN 0-14-046-440-9 (1984-00-00)
    14. ? Moerman. D. Native American Ethnobotany Timber Press. Oregon. ISBN 0-88192-453-9 (1998-00-00)
    15. ? Sheat. W. G. Propagation of Trees, Shrubs and Conifers. MacMillan and Co (1948-00-00)
    16. ? 16.016.1 Dirr. M. A. and Heuser. M. W. The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation. Athens Ga. Varsity Press ISBN 0942375009 (1987-00-00)
    17. ? Bean. W. Trees and Shrubs Hardy in Great Britain. Vol 1 - 4 and Supplement. Murray (1981-00-00)
    18. ? Thomas. G. S. Ornamental Shrubs, Climbers and Bamboos. Murray ISBN 0-7195-5043-2 (1992-00-00)
    19. ? Phillips. R. & Rix. M. Shrubs. Pan Books ISBN 0-330-30258-2 (1989-00-00)
    20. ? Fernald. M. L. Gray's Manual of Botany. American Book Co. (1950-00-00)