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What Is the State Flower of Connecticut? Facts & History

mountain laurel blooming

Connecticut’s official state flower is the Kalmia latifolia, or mountain laurel, and it was adopted as the state flower on April 17, 1907. The mountain laurel is also known as sheep laurel, spoonwood, calico bush, lambkill, and ivy bush. This beautiful flower is native to North America and reaches peak bloom between May and June.

Interestingly, the Kalmia latifolia is also Pennsylvania’s state flower, and nearly all parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and animals.

garden flower divider

Facts About Mountain Laurel

The mountain laurel produces striking and sweet-smelling star-shaped flowers between late spring and early summer. These pink and white blossoms stand out for their beauty and contrast against the dark green hues of the Kalmia latifolia evergreen shrubs.

Mountain laurel can grow up to 15 feet tall, and its stems can be as large as 6 inches in diameter. This thicket-forming shrub has narrow, lance-shaped leaves that can grow up to 1.5 inches wide and 3 to 4 inches long.

The first recording of the mountain laurel was in 1624 in John Smith’s book that cites the General History of Virginia. In 1750, Peter Kalm, a Swedish explorer, sent the mountain laurel to Linnaeus, a renowned botanist. Linnaeus studied it and named it Kalmia latifolia in honor of Peter “Kalm” and to describe the plant’s broad leaves.

Native Americans nicknamed the plant “spoonwood” because its shrubs can be used to make cutlery.

Today, this flower with a distinct visual flair is cultivated throughout the eastern coast of the U.S., the northern half of Connecticut, and the southern regions. You cannot miss mountain laurel blossom lineups when traveling along Interstate Route 95, especially during peak bloom in May and June.

mountain laurel flowers blooming
Image Credit: dwdavisauthor0, Pixabay

How Was Mountain Laurel Adopted As Connecticut’s State Flower?

Not much is recorded about how the mountain laurel became the designated state flower of Connecticut. What is well known is that in the early 20th century, more than 3,000 women persuaded Connecticut’s state legislature to embrace the mountain laurel as Connecticut’s state flower.

As expected, not everyone was for the idea at first. But as lawmakers saw the beauty in the large thickets of mountain laurel underneath the tree canopies and the thick lineups on roadsides, they gradually warmed up to the idea. It was not until April 17, 1907 that lawmakers embraced the beauty that these 3,000 women saw and supported making the mountain laurel the state flower.

garden flower divider

Final Thoughts

Mountain laurel is one of the most eye-striking Native American shrubs. It stands out for its looks and fragrance and has managed to turn the heads of people since the dawn of colonization. Modern folk eagerly wait for May and June to see this plant burst with breathtaking masses of bright pink, white or red blossoms.

If you have hiked on Connecticut hills and loved the sight and fragrance of mountain laurel, you have probably wondered what it would take to grow it in your yard. The plant is relatively straightforward to cultivate and thrives best when grown in partial sun and shade. Also, use well-drained acidic soil and water regularly because the mountain laurel has a shallow root system.

Featured Image Credit: zrefugee, Pixabay

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