As I mentioned earlier this week, I've been doing a lot of traveling lately. Last Tuesday I went to Ocean City, New Jersey to meet with the town's Environmental Commission to talk about native plants. Two weekends before, I was helping my mom out with some spring cleaning. When I was on the bus going home after that weekend, I noticed tiny hints of pink in the woods next to the Garden State Parkway. I knew immediately that they were Kalmia latifolia or Mountain Laurel.
People who have tried to get this plant to thrive in their garden probably look at this shot of Kalmia, growing beautifully on the side of the Garden State Parkway, and grit their teeth. The plant is notoriously difficult. As the common name implies, the plant does best in well drained soil (like, on the sides of mountains, or here, in extremely sandy soil). I see it in South Jersey a lot and of course, it's ubiquitous in the Appalachian.
Kalmia is in the Ericaceae or blueberry family. The foliage and its need for acidic soil is similar to another Ericaceous plant, the Rhododendron. But the flowers are quite unique. I love the flower buds before they open - they look almost like the hard candy cake decorations you can buy at the grocery store.
The plant is called Kalmia after Pehr Kalm who sent samples of the plant to Linnaeus. Latifolia means wide leaves.
This is a very, very pale pink plant, but you can find deeper pinks, like the color of ballet shoes. In either case, they are lovely.
I'm sending this out from Hawaii, so, Aloha! I'll be tweeting pictures occasionally, but won't be blogging much.