2018, June 2018, Plant trivia

Mountain Laurel tricks

Mountain Laurel, or Kalmia latifolia, is an evergreen New England native that lights up the woodland border in late spring/early summer. Depending on the variety, they prefer part sun to shade, acid soil, and grow to be 3-8 feet tall, although most are in the 4-5 foot range. They are a lovely addition to the natural woodland margin garden, and need no more marketing than that. But did you know that they have a really clever mechanism for getting pollinated?


Mountain Laurel flowers are cup shaped, and grow in clusters. The “cups” have tiny pockets arranged evenly around the inside, and as the stamens grow, their filaments (the stalk-like part) bend backwards, allowing their anthers (the part that holds the pollen) to tuck neatly into the pockets. When an unsuspecting bee lands in the middle of the flower, these spring-loaded stamens catapult towards it, hitting it with their anthers and depositing pollen on its back. They can fling their pollen almost 6 inches when this happens. And when the bee flies away, some of the filaments will even bend backwards again and tuck themselves back into place.

Although I don’t recommend doing this often because too much of it could harm the plant, try poking the center of a Mountain Laurel flower sometime when you see one. You will experience what happens to the bee as the anthers spring forward and deposit their pollen on your finger. Isn’t Nature remarkable?!


1 thought on “Mountain Laurel tricks”

  1. I used to grow mountain laurel, and I was unaware of that technique. How amusing! You would think that bees would avoid them if they take such a beating from visiting them.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s