Kalmia polifolia (Bog Laurel)

Plant Info
Also known as: Pale Laurel, Swamp-laurel
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; bogs, acidic lakeshores, fens, muskeg
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:6 to 30 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: none MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Flower shape: bell

[photo of flowers] Loose cluster of up to 13 flowers on slender stalks arising from the top-most leaf axils at the tip of the stem. Flowers are 1/3 to ½ inch across, pink to purple, saucer shaped with 5 sides, the lobes broadly triangular. Sepals are oval and less than 1/8 inch long, green/brown with a conspicuous green ring at the base. 10 white stamens with dark tips surround the slender greenish pink style in the center. A plant often has multiple brancing stems.

Leaves and stem: Leaf attachment: opposite Leaf attachment: whorl Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are evergreen into 2nd year, simple, opposite or occasionally in whorls of 3, long and narrow, ½ to 1¾ inches long and 1/8 to ½ inch wide, with a pointed or blunt tip and little or no leaf stalk. The edges are smooth and roll under; upper surface is dark shiny green with minute hairs on midrib, undersurface is whitish and downy with fine hairs. Stems woody, spreading low and then up, new branches flattened and minutely hairy becoming smooth with age, older stems develop fine grayish surface but smooth underneath.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a 5-chambered round capsule, not more than ¼ inch across, with the long erect remains of the pistil at the top.


A denizen of wet places filled with insects, most people avoid encountering Bog Laurel, though the early bloom period oftens precludes major mosquito hatches. It is highly dependent on sphagnum peat growth and saturated peaty muck soils. Found in association with other interesting bog plants—Chamaedaphne calyculata, Andromeda glaucophylla, Rhododendron groenlandicum and others—a visit is usually worth the trip. This species is sensitive to habitat changes incluidng fire, encroaching trees and shrubs, and even flooding. Where found it is usually an indicator of a stable ecosystem.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at several locations in central Aitkin County


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: LeeAnn - Itasca County near Marcell
on: 2011-05-31 07:52:24

My husband and I took a bog walk and found these beauties! We're very happy to identify them.

Posted by: Teresa - Cook County, Gunflint Trail
on: 2011-06-15 18:45:38

Entrance road to Golden Eagle Lodge on the Gunflint Trail. We have a black spruce swamp on either side of our road. We found these growing beside Labrador Tea.

Posted by: Sandra - Upper Red Lake
on: 2012-05-31 12:51:22

These were just beginning to open on the boardwalk in the Big Bog on May 16.

Posted by: Paulette - the Cotton, MN area, spruce bog.
on: 2013-06-18 18:16:57

I've never seen this in bloom here before, but this year it's sprouting in the bogs. I took pictures of several clumps. A real treat to see it.

Posted by: Kelly - International Falls
on: 2019-06-05 17:13:15

My mom sent me pictures of Bog Laurel spotted along the Tilson Creek Ski Trails in early June

Posted by: Sherman in Duluth - North Star Township (I think) in St. Louis County
on: 2022-07-09 09:21:28

Around 1970, in the spring while driving to the family cabin on Briar lake , I saw numerous Bog Laurels blooming in a bog on the Northwest side of Pequaywan Lake Road slightly South of Fox Farm Road. I could see the pink flowers from the road while driving, so I stopped for a short bog walk (risking wet feet) to see what they were. I had NEVER seen or heard of these plants before. The petals had a darker geometric pattern on them if I remember right.

Posted by: Deb - Kathio state park
on: 2023-06-01 20:24:23

Bog. 5/25/23

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