Thursday, May 14, 2009

Mountain Laurel

Now that the azaleas have pretty much dropped their gorgeous flowers, its mountain laurel time. Yesterday I walked down our road and took pictures of the laurel bushes. As I was taking the pictures I remembered my husband telling me that mountain laurel is poison to goats unless the goats were born and raised with it. This is how it grows by my house, suddenly as you walk along the road, there is a laurel bush tucked in among the other foliage.

Just look at those beautiful buds and the resulting flowers, they are just perfect, always! Look at the little pink dots circling the center. I JUST LOVE LAUREL!

As I was taking the pictures I wondered if the poison tale was true so looked it up on Wikipedia when I got home. WOW, its also poison to people. Am I the only one who didn't know this? I decided to quote the whole thing here:

Mountain Laurel Shrubs and Bay Laurel Trees Apollo, Daphne and The Rich History of Bay Laurel Trees
is an evergreen shrub growing to 3-9 m tall. The leaves are 3-12 cm long and 1-4 cm wide. Its flowers are star-shaped, ranging from red to pink to white, and occurring in clusters. It blooms between May and June. All parts of the plant are poisonous. Roots are fibrous, matted.[1]
The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. The plant often grows in large thickets, covering large areas of forest floor. In North America it becomes a tree on the mountains of the Carolinas but is a shrub further north.[1]
Etymology
It is also known as Ivybush, Calico Bush, Spoonwood (because native Americans used to make their spoons out of it), Sheep Laurel, Lambkill and Clamoun.
The plant was first recorded in America in 1624, but it was named after Pehr Kalm, who sent samples to Linnaeus in the 18th century.
Cultivation and uses
The plant was originally brought to Europe as an ornamental plant during the 18th century. It is still widely grown for its attractive flowers. Numerous cultivars have been selected with varying flower color. Does not flourish in a limestone country.
This is one of the most satisfactory shrubs for lawn or garden. When in full bloom it is of surpassing beauty, and its bright evergreen leaves make it conspicuous at any time.
A little known American use of the plant was in the making of arbors for early wooden-works clocks. Mountain-laurel is a foodplant of last resort for gypsy moth caterpillars, utilized only during outbreaks when moth densities are extremely high.
Toxicity
Mountain laurel is poisonous to several different animals, including horses, goats, cattle, sheep, and deer, due to andromedotoxin and arbutin. The green parts of the plant, the flowers, twigs, and pollen are all toxic, and symptoms of toxicity begin to appear about 6 hours following ingestion. Poisoning produces anorexia, repeated swallowing, profuse salivation, depression, uncoordination, vomiting, frequent defecation, watering of the eyes, irregular or difficulty breathing, weakness, cardiac distress, convulsions, coma, and eventually death. Autopsy will show gastrointestinal irritation and hemorrhage.
This evergreen, round-topped shrub is used in gardens as an ornamental plant. The large terminal clusters of flowers are borne on sticky, hairy stems and range in colour from rose to white.

Children have been poisoned by chewing on the leaves, sucking the juice from the blossoms, or by making a tea. The foliage is especially toxic.

Honey, when made by bees in the area where mountain laurel is grown, has been found to be poisonous. This dangerously poisonous plant generally produces symptoms in about six hours. They consist of nausea, intense abdominal pains, vomiting, repeated swallowing, and watering of the eyes, nose, and mouth. In more severe cases breathing becomes difficult; the heartbeat is slower. There is depression, prostration, convulsions, paralysis of the arms and legs, coma, and possible death within twelve to fourteen hours.

So there you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about mountain laurel!!!

Spring-time was always a bitter sweet thing for my husband, if he was going to be sick, it would be in the spring. He had 5 heart attacks over 15 years, always in the spring. Laurel was so special us, I always brought him a bouquet when he was in the hospital just to remind him he needed to hurry up and get well and get home to his mountain.
Just because it was so pretty and green, I wanted to share with you a picture of our road, there's no doubt, why my puppy and I walk down the road every day we can, is there?

The sun was out, the sky was clear. Here's another shot from our road and there's no doubt why they call them the Blue Ridge mountains.

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