Botanical Illustration of Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel.

Mountain Laurel

Botanical illustration of the beautiful Kalmia latifolia, mountain laurel.

One of the many botanical illustrations I drew in my first year for the “Digging In” gardening column of the Washington Post was Kalmia latifolia or mountain laurel. In the ten years of botanical illustration for the newspaper I drew this flowering native shrub twice.  I like this native plant so much that I chose my more recent illustration of it as the subject for one of my greeting cards in my botanical illustration series #1, created from my Washington Post work.


My first time seeing this lovely native shrub in flower.

I didn’t think about the other Kalmia latifolia illustration from that first year until recently. A friend, while admiring my botanical illustration greeting card series, told me that Kalmia latifolia was her favorite plant. Her remark made me think back to the first time I saw it flowering. It was on the side of the road in rural Carroll County, Maryland.


Mountain laurel is a favorite plant for many.

My friend is not alone in her choice of favorite plant. Michael A. Dirr in his “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” describes Kalmia latifolia’s flower as the “most beautiful flower I know…. especially as the buds are opening”. The unique, “intricate beauty” (Dirr) of the mountain laurel flower buds remind me of ornamental icing on a traditional wedding cake; rows of tiny, perfectly formed dollops ending in minute peaks. The Kalmia latifolia flower buds- often dark pink on the outside opening up into pale pink flowers- are so perfectly formed they look almost unnatural.

Flowers with an ingenious strategy for pollination.


I took my time preparing those botanical illustrations.  Not only the buds, but the flowers too, are challenging to draw-and just as beautiful. The ten stamens of each flower curve into little pockets in each petal- spring-loaded if you will. When the pollen is ripe the slightest touch of a visiting insect will cause the bent stamen to spring forward showering pollen into the air. What an ingenious strategy to aid pollination. I often wonder what the insect “thinks” when the stamen filament is suddenly released slapping it in the eye or anther? Maybe after the surprise of the first time the insect grows to expect it and enjoy it even. I certainly enjoy the challenge of drawing such intricate botanical illustrations.

Aislinn Adams

4 Responses to “Botanical Illustration of Kalmia latifolia, Mountain Laurel.”

  • Don:

    Great drawing of the mountain laurel. Is it native to the East Coast or is it native to Oregon?

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Don,

    Thanks for the query. Mountain laurel is a native to the eastern U.S.
    Best, Aislinn

  • Georgia:

    Hi Aislinn, Great article on you in the Statesman Journal. I met you at Deepwood a couple of years ago at the new native area. Have you been to Deepwood lately to see how the native garden is doing?

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Georgia,

    I remember you well. Alas! I haven’t been over to Deepwood yet this spring. I know the fawn lilies were giving a great show a couple of weeks ago. I hope to get over there soon. Aislinn

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