Mountain-laurel

Botanical Name :Kalmia latifolia
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Kalmia
Species: K. latifolia
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Ericales

Synonyms: Broad-leafed Laurel. Calico Bush. Spoon Wood. Ledum Floribus Bullates. Cistus Chamaerhodendros.

Common Names : Mountain-laurel, Calico-bush, or Cpoonwood

It is also known as Ivybush, Spoonwood (because native Americans used to make their spoons out of it), Sheep Laurel, Lambkill and Clamoun.

Habitat:Mountain-laurel is native to the eastern United States. Its range stretches from southern Maine south to northern Florida, and west to Indiana and Louisiana. Mountain-laurel is the state flower of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. It is the namesake of the city of Laurel, Mississippi (founded 1882).

The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. It thrives in acidic soil, preferring a soil pH in the 4.5 to 5.5 range. The plant often grows in large thickets, covering great areas of forest floor. In North America it can become tree sized on undeveloped mountains of the Carolinas but is a shrub farther north. The species is a frequent component of oak-heath forests.

Description:
A beautiful evergreen shrub from 4 to 20 feet. When in full flower it forms dense thickets, the stems are always crooked, the bark rough. It was called Kalmia by Linnaeus in honour of Peter Kalm, a Swedish professor. The hard wood is used in the manufacture of various useful articles. Leaves ovate, lanceolate, acute on each end, on petioles 2 to 3 inches long. Flowers numerous, delicately tinted a lovely shade of pink; these are very showy, clammy, interminal, viscid, pubescent, simple or compound heads, branches opposite, flowering in June and July. The flowers yield a honey said to be deleterious. The leaves, shoots and berries are dangerous to cattle, and when eaten by Canadian pheasants communicate the poison to those who feed on the birds. The fruit is a dry capsule, seeds minute and numerous.

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Medicinal Uses:

Part Used:  Leaves.

Constituents: Leaves possess narcotic poisoning properties and contain tannic acid, gum, fatty matter, chlorophyll, a substance resembling mannite, wax extractive, albumen, an acrid principle, Aglucosidearbutin, yellow calcium iron.

Indians are said to use the expressed juice of the leaves or a strong decoction of them to commit suicide. The leaves are the official part; powdered leaves are used as a local remedy in some forms of skin diseases, and are a most efficient agent in syphilis, fevers, jaundice, neuralgia and inflammation, but great care should be exercised in their use. Whisky is the best antidote to poisoning from this plant. An ointment for skin diseases is made by stewing the leaves in pure lard in an earthenware vessel in a hot oven. Taken internally it is a sedative and astringent in active haemorrhages, diarrhoea and flux. It has a splendid effect and will be found useful in overcoming obstinate chronic irritation of the mucous surface. In the lower animals an injection produces great salivation, lachrymation, emesis, convulsions and later paralysis of the extremities and laboured respiration. It is supposed, but not proved, that the poisonous principle of this plant is Andromedotoxin.

In Homeopathy this herb is used in different dialutions for different diseases.

Other Uses:
The wood of the mountain laurel is heavy and strong but brittle, with a close, straight grain. It has never been a viable commercial crop as it does not grow large enough, yet it is suitable for wreaths, furniture, bowls and other household items. It was used in the early 19th century in wooden-works clocks. Burls were used for pipe bowls in place of imported briar burls. It can be used for handrails or guard rails.

Known Hazards:
Mountain laurel is poisonous to several different animals due to grayanotoxin and arbutin, including horses, goats, cattle, deer, monkeys and humans. The green parts of the plant, flowers, twigs, and pollen are all toxic, including food products made from them, such as toxic honey that may produce neurotoxic and gastrointestinal symptoms in humans eating more than a modest amount. Fortunately the honey is sufficiently bitter to discourage most people from eating it, whereas it does not harm bees sufficiently to prevent its use as winter bee fodder. Symptoms of toxicity begin to appear about 6 hours following ingestion. Symptoms include irregular or difficulty breathing, anorexia, repeated swallowing, profuse salivation, watering of the eyes and nose, cardiac distress, incoordination, depression, vomiting, frequent defecation, weakness, convulsions, paralysis, coma, and eventually death. Autopsy will show gastrointestinal irritation and hemorrhage.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/laumou12.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalmia_latifolia

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