Pennsylvania Mountain Laurel – Is It Protected?

Mountain laurel bush in bloom

Nature possesses a remarkable ability to enthrall us with its stunning allure, and within Pennsylvania, a particular flower serves as an emblem of the state’s magnificent natural scenery—the mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia).

Designated as the official state flower of Pennsylvania in 1933, the mountain laurel signifies the state’s abundant botanical legacy as well as its profound ties to the awe-inspiring landscapes that embellish its mountainsides and forests. You may have heard that mountain laurel in the Keystone State is protected, but is that fact or fiction?

Is Pennsylvania Mountain Laurel a Protected Species?

Mountain laurel is a perennial shrub adorning the eastern forests of North America, encompassing the woods of the Commonwealth. Its exquisite and fragile blossoms bestow the scenery with shades of pink, white, and, occasionally, a touch of purple. These bowl-shaped flowers, arranged in clusters, create a mesmerizing spectacle that has captivated nature lovers for generations.

The choice of mountain laurel as the state flower can be attributed to its plentiful presence within the state. It flourishes across Pennsylvania’s varied landscapes, spanning from the Allegheny Mountains to the Pocono Mountains. This charming plant blankets the forest grounds, offering a visually captivating experience for both travelers and inhabitants of the area.

Although the mountain laurel is widely admired and recognized as Pennsylvania’s official state flower, it is essential to clarify a prevalent misunderstanding regarding its legal protection. Contrary to popular belief, mountain laurel is not legally protected in Pennsylvania. Although it is the state flower, it doesn’t have any particular legal protections within the state.

Another point of interest is that not only did Pennsylvanians think the mountain laurel was beautiful enough to be designated the state flower, but Connecticut also selected it as theirs in 1907.

Mountain laurel plants growing in the forest

Mountain laurel, characterized by its perennial greenery and elegant structure, offers a captivating view across the changing seasons. Its deep green foliage is a constant background for the remarkable exhibition of flowers that appear in the latter part of spring and the beginning of summer. The attractive display of these beautiful flowers entices hikers, photographers, and nature lovers to venture into the state’s breathtaking wild landscapes.

Keystone Answers Fun Fact: Cook Forest in Pennsylvania has the state’s largest black cherry and boasts the tallest black cherries found north of the Mason-Dixon Line. Moreover, Cook Forest is recognized for having the highest count of black cherries, reaching 130′ in height north of the Great Smoky Mountains.

History and Ecological Value

Not only does the mountain laurel captivate with its beautiful appearance, but it also bears a rich history and cultural importance. Native American groups, including the Lenape, Shawnee, and Cherokee tribes, acknowledged the plant’s splendor and esteemed its curative benefits and carving uses. 

Close up view of a mountain laurel blossom

In addition, the plant delivers vital environmental advantages. Its vibrant blossoms lure pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds, which are essential in sustaining local ecosystems and fostering biodiversity.

The plant’s thick leaves provide refuge and nesting possibilities for avian species and tiny creatures, further enriching the complex network of life within its natural surroundings.

Should you be lucky enough to observe the mountain laurel thriving in its native environment, seize the opportunity to appreciate its magnificence fully. Examine the elaborate features of the flowers, inhale the gentle scent, and admire their hardiness. Whether you come across it on a peaceful forest stroll or decide to grow it in your garden, its beauty is unparalleled.

Wonders of the Wild

The mountain laurel may not be legally protected in Pennsylvania, but its beauty and ecological value should still be appreciated. Its beautiful blossoms captivate nature lovers with their stunning display of pink, white, and purple hues while providing essential benefits to the environment through pollination and refuge for avian species.

For those fortunate enough to witness its blooming in nature, there can be no doubt as to why it was chosen as Pennsylvania’s official state flower—the sheer magnificence of the mountain laurel will always remain unparalleled!

Photo of author


I was born and raised in Pennsylvania; I love to travel, visit new destinations, explore unique locations, and meet great new people. However, sometimes, you don't need to travel far from home to find new adventures, so I decided now was the time to learn more about this great state I call home.