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Thursday - March 19, 2015

From: Staunton, VA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Observation of Kalmia angustifolia in George Washington National Forest in Virginia
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

On Feb. 7th, 2015 I observed a variety Kalmia on the crest of a ridge, recently burned off, in the George Washington National Forest. I think it may be sheep laurel (Kalmia angustiflora), which colonized the burned-over area. In some places it grew next to Kalmia latifolia (mountain laurel), which is very common here.

ANSWER:

First of all, I think you must mean Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel) not Kalmia angustiflora.  Kalmia angustiflora does not appear in the USDA Plants Database and, therefore, not in our Native Plant DatabaseThe "angusti-" of the species name means narrow and "-folia" indicates the leaf, so "angustifolia" means "narrow-leafed" which is descriptive of the speciesIt has been wrongly called Kalmia angustiflora by several sources.

Mr. Smarty Plants isn't completely sure what your question is.  Kalmia latifolia (Mountain laurel) can be found over most of Virginia according to the distribution map of the USDA Plants Database; whereas, the USDA Plants Database distribution map for Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel) shows it in only a few counties in Virginia, mostly along the North Carolina border.  Even though it is not reported within the larger area of the George Washington National Forest, it is reported in Grayson and Carroll Counties which seem to include a very small area of the adjoining Jefferson National Forest according to this map.

It doesn't necessarily mean that Kalmia angustifolia hasn't been reported in some areas of the George Washington National Forest even if it doesn't appear on the distribution map in the counties that compose the George Washington National Forest. The USDA Plants Database on its Advanced Search and Download page says:

"Regardless of source, county distribution data are notoriously incomplete and can only be considered preliminary. For a broader idea of what may grow spontaneously in a particular county you may want to include adjacent counties that are phytogeographically similar in your search."

Here are the descriptions of Kalmia latifolia and Kalmia angustifolia from eFloras.org, the online version of  Flora of North America.

There is one checklist of the plants in Jefferson National Forest, A Checklist of Common Plants of the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest, Virginia compiled by Arnold Krochmal and Connie Krochmal in 1981.  It lists Kalmia latifolia, but not Kalmia angustifolia.

If you are wishing to add this observation to the USDA Plants Database, please see this page for instructions on how to do that.

If you haven't already contacted them, you might like to contact the offices of the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests to see if there is a botanist on staff who would be interested in your observation.

 

From the Image Gallery


Sheep laurel
Kalmia angustifolia

Mountain laurel
Kalmia latifolia

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