Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

The Mountain Laurel Is Blooming

mountain laurel in Appalachia
Mountain Laurel (Rhododendron) is now in full bloom around my house the bees and bugs are having a hay day-enjoying all the stickiness of each bloom.

mtn laurel leaves
The leaves of the Mountain Laurel are long and narrow-sword shaped. If you ever have a campfire near a Laurel-take a few leaves and throw them in the fire-you’ll be rewarded with lots of popping-Chitter and Chatter take every opportunity to ‘pop’ the fire.

white rhododendren
The blooms around my house range from pink to white. Deeper pinks and purple blooms can be found in other areas of Appalachia.

mountain laurel jewelry
The stickiness of the blooms makes them ‘stick on’ jewelry. Earrings, bracelets, necklaces-and of course a corsage for the Summer Ball are all made perfect by using the blooms of the Mountain Laurel.

Some of you may be saying-that isn’t really Mountain Laurel-it’s Rhododendron. If you click here you can read about why I call it Mountain Laurel.

After I published the piece about Mountain Laurel being Ivy-and Rhododendron being Mountain Laurel-a friend, Jay Henderson, gave me some ‘proof’ that folks who call Mountain Laurel Ivy are actually right. See what he said:

Newcomers to the mountains often are perplexed about two matters – first, why are there so many trout streams named “Laurel?” Weren’t there enough names to go around? Second, where is the laurel on these “Laurels?” Is it somewhere behind all of the rhododendron? The second question is easy to answer. What the flatlanders call “rhododendron” is widely known in southern Appalachia as “laurel.” The Kalmia latifolia shrubs known on the coast as laurel are called in Appalachia “mountain laurel” or “ivy.”

This usage of “ivy” was once so common that it was a dictionary definition. It is so listed twice in the venerable Webster’s New International Dictionary (Merriam-Webster, 1913), under “ivy” (definition 3) and “ivy tree,” in both cases with the notation “Southern U.S.” In Patrick County, Virginia, where “mountain laurel” is still called “ivy,” Big Ivy Creek and Little Ivy Creek are named for the great stands of Kalmia latifolia that exist in this watershed. I don’t mind the name “rhododendron,” personally, but “laurel” is easier to spell. “Laurel hell” derives from a Scotch-Irish usage — Scottish-English “hell” or something close to it meaning (among other things) something like tangle or thicket of brush.

Looks like Ivy is one of those words that retained it’s original meaning due to the isolated nature of certain regions of Appalachia.

On Saturday the whole Blind Pig family crawled and fought their way through a Laurel Hell-all to find Olive-and thank goodness we found her. (sorry if you’re getting tired of the teases about Olive-it’s just that I can’t wait to tell you about her)

Ever wore Mountain Laurel jewelry or made a fire ‘pop’ with their leaves?



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  • Reply
    June 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Beautiful pictures, Tipper. I just wish the Mountain Lauret in my yard would bloom. They bloomed only once since I’ve been in this house.
    I need to find out what I’m doing wrong or not doing that I should be.

  • Reply
    Dee from Tennessee
    June 23, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Our former neighbors were from NC..Bryson City…and they transplanted some Mt. Laurel to their “new” home here. It was beautiful! Roan Mountain Tn has a wonderful festival that celebrates the rhododendrons — they are spectualar!

  • Reply
    June 23, 2010 at 6:54 am

    We’ve got a lot of rhododendron in Cyprus – there’s one practically in every garden. My mum has a huge one with bell-shaped flowers in bright fuchsia.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    Sooo pretty!!
    Love that first picture!!! And the earring pic too!
    I’ve never popped the fire or had laurel jewels.
    But this post makes me want BOTH!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Such beautiful blooms; we don’t have these in Florida either. Crepe Myrtle and Oleanders are blooming like crazy here right now.

  • Reply
    David Templeton
    June 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. Sir A.C. Doyle

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    Such lovliness! And I love the term “flatlanders” 🙂

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Mountain Laurel is my all time favorite plant/flower. I have paid homage to it and my heritage with a tattoo. 🙂 There is nothing like it. I have never heard it called ivy though. That’s a new one. Ivy is a vine around here. 🙂 Rhododendron is a plant you buy at the garden store. hehe Oh, and ours are pink and white too. But they bloom in May. There all gone now.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    June 22, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    I didn’t know that the flowers were sticky. As beautiful as the blooms are I am not sure which is prettier…. the flower or the face!!!

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 1:54 pm

    Beautiful! Thanks for the info!

  • Reply
    petra michelle
    June 22, 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Just lovely, Tipper!
    I hope you and your family had a wonderful Father’s Day! :))

  • Reply
    Vicki Lane
    June 22, 2010 at 7:05 am

    We have a small laurel hell on our farm — and I’ve written one into the upcoming book.

  • Reply
    June 22, 2010 at 12:06 am

    The mountain laurel is so pretty! Thank you for your email! We are excited about being entered into your monthly contest.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 11:56 pm

    Hi, WELL—-whether you call it Rhododendron or Mountain Laurel, it surely is GORGEOUS…. It does make great earrings, doesn’t it?????
    Can’t wait to hear more about your HIKE.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 10:34 pm

    Well I learned something. I had no idea they were sticky. I wonder if it’s the “sticky” that makes them pop in the fire.

  • Reply
    Nancy M.
    June 21, 2010 at 10:02 pm

    I think they’re beautiful! I seem to always be calling things by different names than my friend, drives her crazy, lol!

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    June 21, 2010 at 9:25 pm

    Hey Tipper,
    I was born in Buncumbe county NC…we always called Rhododendron..that blooms on the balds of the Smoky Mountains in late June…Rhododendron..
    The Laural was called Ivy…or Mountain Ivy..by my grandparents..
    “Little Ivy” community was located in East Madison county,NC…”Big Ivy” is located at the headwaters of the Big Ivy River north of Asheville, NC..The USDA Forest Service says “Ivy” is the local name for Mountain Laurel…Big Ivy being a remote, rugged, beautiful terrain..undoubtly bordered on the river, creeks and streams by ivy..laurel.. rhododendron…or both…lol

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Tipper really enjoyed the posting on the Laurel, yes I have worn the flowers for jewelry and threw the leaves in a campfire. I have also made little boats out of the leaves and watched them float down the small mountain stream beside our house. Thanks again for the wonderful post!!!!!!!!!

  • Reply
    Fishing Guy
    June 21, 2010 at 5:29 pm

    Tipper: It does add so much beauty to your mountains.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 4:42 pm

    Tipper, Terrific insight you have
    on Mountain Living. (Pap taught you well) Beautiful pictures! I got Laural thickets everywhere at
    my place too. A long time ago we
    used the dry laurel for firewood
    in the cookstove. Mama love the
    way it crackled as it burned. I
    chopped many sticks and enjoyed
    those wonderful meals mama cooked
    on the old wood stove. Ken

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 4:05 pm

    i have not seen the mountains covered in laurel for 50 years now and i would love to see them again. we called it laurel and i like that name best. did not know about the firepoppin, wish I had, since i love to play with fire. been almost that long since I heard having a hay day. I used to use that saying a lot.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    hiya tipper.. hope you and yours had
    a great fathers day.. and that you got to spend time with your loved ones.. thats the most important thing..
    now to the mountain laurel.. no matter what its called.. i think the blooms are gorgeous .
    big ladybug hugs

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    June 21, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I really enjoyed this post. Very interesting, and I never knew about Mountain Laurel jewelry. How precious!

  • Reply
    Brenda Kay Ledford
    June 21, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    I do love the beautiful mountain laurel when it’s blooming. What a lovely posting. I enjoyed it very much.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 12:51 pm

    They really are quite pretty. We have tons of that around here also.

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    How did you know I had be eying your post on FB. I am so glad you posted their blooms. Thanks for dropping by my blog and reminding me of what I had planned to do.
    Watching for Olive. 😉

  • Reply
    June 21, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    Rhododendron jewelry – how fun! I will have to ask the neighbor for a few blooms and show my grandaughter!
    I live justthisclose to western Pennsylvania and the northern tip of West Virginia, we’ve always called it rhododendron. All these regional differences are part of what make our culture so interesting!

  • Reply
    Grandma Sallie
    June 21, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Wow, I loved this post Tipper. I get so lonely for the mountains at this time of year. I never knew that about Jewelry made from Mountain Laurel. I left the beautiful Southern Appalachians when I was 16, and always miss my Mountain Home.
    I always got Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron mixed up. Loved reading the explanation.

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