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Kalmia angustifolia (Sheep laurel)
Smith, R.W.

Kalmia angustifolia

Kalmia angustifolia L.

Sheep Laurel, Lambkill Kalmia, Lambkill

Ericaceae (Heath Family)


USDA Symbol: kaan

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N), SPM (N)

A dense shrub growing 3+ ft. tall and usually twice as wide. An evergreen shrub with small, deep pink, saucer-shaped flowers in dense clusters around stem, mostly below leaves. Some stems may trail on the ground ending in erect branch tips. The glossy, narrowly-oval, leathery leaves are blue-green and turn reddish-green to purple in fall. The flower is a small, purple to red bell, scattered in clusters along the stems.

Because of its colonial habit, Sheep Laurel can form sizable stands. The flowers are miniatures of the larger Mountain Laurel (K. latifolia). Pale Laurel (K. polifolia), also known as Bog Laurel, has pink flowers in terminal clusters, 2-edged twigs, and opposite leaves with rolled edges, very white beneath; it is a northern bog plant and occurs only as far south as northern New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Two other species of Kalmia are found in the southern United States. The genus name honors Peter Kalm, a student of Linnaeus, who traveled and collected plants in the Americas in the 18th century.


From the Image Gallery

5 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Fruit Type: Capsule
Size Notes: Up to about 5 feet tall, often shorter.
Leaf: Green above, pale green below
Flower: Flowers 3/8 inch
Fruit: Brown

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Red , Pink , Purple
Bloom Time: May , Jun , Jul
Bloom Notes: Usually reddish purple to pink, rarely white or bluish pink.


USA: CT , DC , DE , MA , MD , ME , MI , NH , NJ , NY , PA , RI , VA , VT , WV
Canada: MB , NB , NS , PE
Native Distribution: Lab. to Ont., s., primarily through e. portion of e. states, to GA; also n. MI
Native Habitat: Wet or dry pastures & thickets; swamp & bog borders; wooded stream banks

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Wet/organic to dry/sterile soils.
Conditions Comments: Will develop chlorosis caused by iron deficiency if located on limy soils. Slow-growing. Dead-heading encourages better blooms in the following years.


Use Wildlife: Low.
Warning: POISONOUS PARTS: All parts. Highly Toxic, Maybe Be Fatal if Eaten! Symptoms include: salivation, watering of eyes and nose, slow pulse, nausea, vomiting, sweating, abdominal pain, headache, tingling of skin, lack of coordination, convulsions, paralysis. Toxic Principle: Andromedotoxin, a resinoid; arbutin, a glycoside. (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)

Sheep Laurel has another common name, lambkill"", referring to the fact that this plant is poisonous to sheep and domestic cattle, althought it apparently has no effect on deer. (Strickland)"
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Columbia silkmoth, Northern Blue butterfly (Lycaeides idas).

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Northern Blue
(Plebejus idas)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA
Columbia silkmoth
(Hyalophora columbia)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA


Seed Collection: Seeds are tiny and mature late.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Plant identfication
October 21, 2009
Hi...Can you please identfy the tall, evergreen shrub with purple plum-colored foliage that I have noticed in winter locally?...Hope so, need he color! THX
view the full question and answer

Evergreen shrubs for Michigan
June 17, 2008
I'm seeking a small-medium, ornamental, fairly compact, evergreen shrub to complement my front yard woodland wildflower garden. I want a shrub that will flank both sides of my front porch steps. I wa...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1186 - Field Guide to Moths of Eastern North America (2005) Covell, C.V., Jr.
Bibref 1185 - Field Guide to Western Butterflies (Peterson Field Guides) (1999) Opler, P.A. and A.B. Wright

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Kalmia angustifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Kalmia angustifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Kalmia angustifolia


Record Modified: 2023-02-15
Research By: TWC Staff

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