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Pennsylvania State Flower

Mountain Laurel

Pennsylvania State Flower - Mountain Laurel

(Kalmia latifolia)

Adopted on May 5, 1933.

The mountain laurel, (Kalmia latifolia,) is Pennsylvania state flower, as enacted by the General Assembly on May 5, 1933. A profusion of native wildflowers herald spring and summer in Penn's Woods. Chief among them is the evergreen Mountain laurel, (Kalmia latifolia.)

Governor Gifford Pinchot decided the choice of the official State flower in the 1930s. The General Assembly had passed two bills each naming a different favorite shrub-(Mountain laurel and the Pink azalea). The mountain laurel is in full bloom in mid-June, when Pennsylvania's woodlands are filled with its distinctive pink flower, a sight which delighted members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate as well as the wife of Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot. Together, they prevailed over Pinchot's preference for the azalea to name the Mountain Laurel as the official state flower. Governor Pinchot chose the former and signed the bill into law on May 5, 1933.

Pennsylvania State Flower: Mountain Laurel

Pennsylvania State Flower - Mountain Laurel

Linnaeus gave it the name of Kalmia latifolia, honoring the name his correspondent and at the same time describing the "wide-leafed" characteristic of the plant. In addition to being called the "Mountain Laurel," the plant has also been spoken of as "Calico Bush" and "Spoonwood."

Mountain laurel in Pennsylvania normally begins to bloom late in May and its pink and white blossoms are in evidence well into June. Thousands of tourists from the Commonwealth and surrounding states are attracted to the mountains each spring

Mountain laurel is a member of the heath family (Ericaceae). This family of plants contains many of our most common and best-known shrubs including huckleberries, blueberries, azaleas, cranberries and rhododendron.
Mountain laurel varies from four to ten feet in height, although specimens 40 feet tall are found in some southern states. It is commonly found growing on rocky hilltops.

Its leaves are lance-shaped, glossy and dark green in color, three to four inches long, and are leather-like in texture. They resemble the leaves of the rhododendron but generally are smaller in size. It is one of a few broadleaved plants native to Pennsylvania whose leaves are evergreen and do not fall to the ground during the winter months

Characteristics of the Mountain Laurel

Mountain Laurel is ideally suited as a landscape accent, informal hedge or border where its flowers can be enjoyed. It is best for natural landscapes and other low-maintenance gardens where it can be allowed to grow to its natural size. Grows 4-6" per year.

  • Leaf: Alternate, simple, evergreen, shiny/waxy above, light green below, 2 to 5 inches long, elliptical in shape, mid-vein raised on upper surfaces.
  • Flower: Very showy clusters, white to rose colored with purple markings, 1 inch across, with the petals forming a distinct firm bowl about the pistil and stamens. Present March to July.
  • Fruit: A round, brown dehiscent capsule, 1/4 inch long, splitting into 5 valves when dry; releasing very small seeds. Maturing in September and October.
  • Twig: Generally forked and twisted, green when young, later brownish-red.
  • Bark: Thin, dark brown to red in color, shredding.
  • Form: A small tree or shrub with many twisted stems.

The Pennsylvania Statutes

The law designating the mountain laurel as the official Pennsylvania state flower is found in Purdon's Pennsylvania Statutes and Consolidated Statutes, Title 71 (P.S. State Government) Part 1 (The Administrative Codes and Related Provisions) Chapter 6 (Provisions Similar or Closely Related to Provisions of the Administrative Code - Secretary and Department of Internal Affairs - State Emblems Section 1006

State Government (Title 71)
Part I. The Administrative Codes and Related Provisions.
Chapter 6. Provisions Similar or Closely Related to Provisions of the Administrative Code
Secretary and Department of Internal Affairs
State Emblems

§ 1006. State flower.

The mountain laurel (Kalmia Latifolia) is hereby adopted as the State flower of Pennsylvania.

Taxonomic Hierarchy: Mountain Laurel

Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
    Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
    Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
    Subclass: Dilleniidae -
Order: Ericales -
Family: Ericaceae - Heath family
Genus: Kalmia L. - laurel
Species: Kalmia latifolia L. - mountain laurel

State Flowers
State Floral Emblems
Flowers & Floral Emblems
Find images and a brief history of the flowers representing, usually by legislative action, the state symbols of each of the fifty states.
The term floral emblem, which refers to flowers specifically, is primarily used in Australia and Canada. In the United States, the term state flower is more often used.
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