.My excursion began unpretentiously, my task simple – to define the lovely Mountain Laurel.

Enacted by the General Assembly as the State Flower for Connecticut in 1907 and Pennsylvania in May 5, 1933 . Mountain Laurel was first mentioned in John Smith's "General History," in 1624 specimens were sent to Linnaeus, the famous botanist, by the Swedish explorer Peter Kalm in 1750.

Linnaeus gave it the name of Kalmia latifolia, honoring the name his correspondent and at the same time describing the "wide-leafed" characteristic of the plant. In addition to being called the "Mountain Laurel," the plant has also been spoken of as "Calico Bush" and "Spoonwood." State Flower

However; for such an attractive plant, there is controversy. It is said that the Delaware Indians used laurel for suicide. Bees even produce poisonous honey from its nectar. I have found little on the internet to support the Indians suicide and even greater debate surrounding this plant being poisonous to animals. The following excerpt may have claim to such diversities:

“Mountain laurel is a very poisonous narcotic plant, the leaves of which were at one time used by some native North American Indian tribes in order to commit suicide. Because of its toxicity, it is a remedy that is seldom used in modern herbalism,but the leaves have been used externally in herbal medicine and are a good remedy for many skin diseases and inflammation.

Known Hazards: The foliage is poisonous to animals[21, 65, 76]. The whole plant is highly toxic[222]. Cases of poisoning have occurred when livestock or game birds have been eaten after they have ingested this plant[238].” Plants For a Future

As I continued my pleasure trip into the mountains, I cut across the beaten path of curiosity to ponder laurel and found:

A Laurel is a 16-17 year old participant in the Young Women's program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The name came from the Old testament, a laurel is a type of tree that in many parables people leaned on. -Wikipedia

The Laurel was the third English gold coin with a value of twenty shillings or one pound produced during the reign of King James I. It was named after the laurel that the king is portrayed as wearing on his head, but it is considerably poorer in both quality and style than the sovereign and Unite which preceded it. The coin was produced during James I's third coinage (1619-1625), five different busts of the king being used in these years. All the coins were produced at the Tower Mint in London. The laurel weighed 140.5 grains or just under 0.3 troy ounce, less than the previous Unite but almost exactly the same as the Unite issued under Charles I. -Wikipedia

I was about to 'rest on my laurels' when I finally came across,“Mountain laurel bushes are sometimes confused with bay laurel trees (Laurus nobilis), the small Mediterranean trees prominent in history and literature. The ancient Greeks and Romans fashioned bay laurel tree’s leaves into wreaths, to be worn as crowns by the victors in sporting events and military campaigns. When you think of Julius Caesar, you probably picture him wearing just such a wreath.” Landscaping

Its name "bay"--from the Anglo-Saxon--also means "crown," Nicholas Culpepper testified in 1653 to its curative powers in his Herbal, "Neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightning will hurt a man where a bay tree is." SOUP OF THE EVENING

The term "baccalaureate," means laurel berry, and refers to the ancient practice of honoring scholars and poets with garlands from the bay laurel tree. Wikipedia hence a farewell sermon to a graduating class at their commencement ceremonies or an academic degree conferred on someone who has successfully completed undergraduate studies

Triumphant athletes of ancient Greece were awarded laurel garlands and was given to winners at Olympic games since 776 BC Today, grand prix winners are bedecked with laurel wreaths

“Ever since, the foliage of bay laurel trees has been a symbol of victory. It is still used as such for the Olympics. We even have the expression, “to rest on one’s laurels,” meaning to be overly content with one’s past achievements. It is also this more famous laurel that is used as a flavoring agent in cooking, often referred to as “bay leaf.”

The Greek word for laurel is dhafni, named for the myth of the nymph Daphne, who was changed into a laurel tree by Gaea

“In Greco-Roman mythology the nymph, Daphne was transformed into a bay laurel tree, to save her from Apollo’s unwelcome advances. Apollo was chasing this daughter of the river-god, Peneus through the woods when the magical metamorphosis occurred. The tale of her transformation has been passed down to us by the Latin poet, Ovid -- in the appropriately titled, Metamorphoses. Edith Hamilton, in her Mythology, relates the tale to us in English with her usual charm:

“She felt his breath upon her neck, but there in front of her the trees opened and she saw her father’s river. She screamed to him, ‘Help me! Father, help me!’ At the words a dragging numbness came upon her, her feet seemed rooted in the earth she had been so swiftly speeding over. Bark was enclosing her; leaves were sprouting forth. She had been changed into a tree, a laurel.”

Again we are reminded, “Muntain laurel, is related to its namesake, the bay laurel tree only in name. Indeed, the common name for Kalmia latifolia derives from the fact that, when Europeans encountered it in the New World, it reminded them superficially of bay laurel trees. But while the foliage of bay laurel trees is used as a culinary herb, mountain laurel is poisonous!” Oh but the aroma and benefits of the wonderful bay leaf!:

Attributed Medicinal Properties
In the Middle Ages it was believed to induce abortions and to have many magical qualities. It was once used to keep moths away, owing to the leafs lauric acid content which gives it insecticidal properties. Bay leaf has many properties which make it useful for treating high blood sugar, migraine headaches, bacterial and fungal infections, and gastric ulcers. Bay leaves and berries have been used for their astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic and stomachic properties. Bay Oil, or Oil of Bays (Oleum Lauri) is used in liniments for bruising and sprains. Bay leaf has been used as an herbal remedy for headaches. It contains compounds called parthenolides, which have proven useful in the treatment of migraines. Bay leaf has also been shown to help the body process insulin more efficiently, which leads to lower blood sugar levels.It has also been used to reduce the effects of stomach ulcers. Bay Leaf contains eugenol, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Bay leaf is also an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Bay Leaf has also been used to treat rheumatism, amenorrhea, and colic. Encyclopedia of Spices.

My, what a journey with just a simple mountain laurel in mind. I have found history and wonders and hopefully left you - My Readers with lots to ponder

1 Comments With Humanity:

eastcoastdweller said...

Ah, you're a writer after my own heart! I too like to take a subject and follow its every possible, meandering path.

Mountain laurel grows bountifully in the forest near my east coast home.

It's also the subject of a classic poem, by Emerson, The Rhodora.

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