May 27, 2017

Brightening Up the Bog

Kalmia polifolia - Bog laurel

Kalmia polifolia – Bog laurel | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

The beautiful but lethal Kalmia polifolia blossoms in midsummer with brilliant pink flowers topping a small evergreen shrub. Native to northeastern North America, this member of the Heath family is called bog laurel, a clue to its preferred habitat of acidic peat bogs. Not that one might randomly start eating this plant, but be forewarned: Its leaves and nectar contain a toxic resin called grayanotoxin, which lowers blood pressure. The plant and honey from it is deadly if ingested in a large enough quantity.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.

In 2012, Glen began working to catalog the plants of Baxter State Park, which you can read about here and find out how to sponsor a plant of your own. Courtesy of a poll taken in 2012, Garden Maine is sponsoring this lovely plant.