The Mountain Laurel is not a laurel at all. It is in the Ericaceae family and is more closely related to cranberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and rhododendron. This misleading name comes from its rich broad green leaves similar to that of the laurel. Indigenous people of the Americas would make spoons from its dense wood, thus lending Spoonwood to be another name for this plant.
Attractive to many species of bees, the flowers of the mountain laurels are evolved to optimize any visitations by insects. The Stamen (long parts in the center of the flower) grow with considerable tension in them, so when brushed against by a bee, the tension is released, covering its visitor in a blast of pollen. Some flowers have been observed to release pollen up to 15cm
Prized for its showy flowers, the Mountain laurel was sent by botanist Pehr Kalm to Linnaeus in Sweden in the 1700s and has since been a prized specimen in many European gardens and plant collections around the world.
K. latifolia is the host species for the Laurel sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae) larva.
Warning: All parts. Highly Toxic, Maybe Be Fatal if Eaten! … Toxic Principle: Andromedotoxin, a resinoid; arbutin, a glycoside (Poisonous Plants of N.C.)