The state flower of Pennsylvania is the mountain laurel. Scientifically known as Kalmia latifolia, the plant is evergreen. The mountain laurel is a shrub that is native to the area and produces pink and white flowers every year.
In 1933, the then governor of Pennsylvania, Gifford Pinchot, chose the mountain laurel as the state flower. The shrub grows in the east of the United States and is found from Florida as far north as Maine. Many alternative names for the plant exist, such as ivybush and calico bush. Native Americans used the wood to make eating implements, so the shrub is also known as spoonwood.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), mountain laurel can grow to be 40 feet (about 12.2 meters) tall. Usually, though, the shrub is from 4 to 10 feet (1.2 to 3 meters) tall. Mountain laurel keeps its leaves all year round. The leaves are up to 4 inches (10.2 centimeters) in length and up to 2 inches (5.1 centimeters) across. They are dark green and feel leathery.
Appropriately for the state flower of Pennsylvania, mountain laurel is native to the state along with its close relatives, sheep laurel and bog laurel. It likes to grow on hillsides with other wooded plants and especially likes rocky mountain areas. Due to its colorful flowers, it may also make up part of a planted shrubbery.
Good drainage and moist soil are ideal for planting the shrub. According to the Pennsylvania DNCR, the mountain laurel will grow in both shade and sun, but sunny areas produce better flowers. A gardener can choose from 75 different subtypes of the species for his or her shrubbery.
Blooming season for the state flower of Pennsylvania is in May, and the flowers last until June. The flowers are scented, with petals shaped like stars, which can be white or pink. Bumblebees are the major pollinators of the shrub, flying from one flower to another and transporting pollen at the same time. If bumblebees are scarce, the mountain laurel can also self-pollinate. The wind then blows the seeds away from the parent plant to a new spot, typically less than 50 feet (15.2 meters) away.
Mountain laurel may grow underneath taller trees such as hardwoods or firs. Commonly, it can be found growing alongside plants such as rhododendrons, blueberries, and huckleberries, all of which happen to be of the same family as the mountain laurel. The DNCR does not regard this state flower of Pennsylvania as protected or endangered.