Alpine Laurel
Kalmia microphylla (Hook.) Heller
Family: Ericaceae, Heath
Genus: Kalmia
Synonyms: Kalmia polifolia var. microphylla
Other names: small bog-laurel, swamp-laurel
Nomenclature: microphylla = small leaved
Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
Medicinal plant
Poisonous plant

General: evergreen shrub, 5-20 cm tall, much branched, often matted, spreading by layering and short rhizomes, young stems short-hairy but soon becoming hairless.

Leaves: opposite, dark green, glossy and hairless above, grayish and very finely and densely granular-short-hairy beneath, entire, usually rolled under at edges, the blades mostly oblong-lanceolate to narrowly oblong or linear-elliptic, 1-2 cm long, the stalks 2-5 mm long.

Flowers: deep pinkish-rose, saucer-shaped, 5-12 mm broad, in loose clusters at stem tips. Flower stalks 1-4 cm long, hairless. Sepals ovate, 2-3 mm long, sparsely hairy on edges, otherwise hairless. Stamens about equaling the style, slightly protruding, filaments densely hairy just above the base, otherwise hairless. June-September.

Fruits: capsules, almost round, 2-3 mm long, splitting into 5 valves.


Moist to wet, open sites and meadows, subalpine and alpine zones, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from AK and the Yukon through B.C., WA, OR, CA and CO.
Medicinal Uses

Swamp laurel was used for skin ailments by the Kwakiutl, Thompson and Tlingit Indians. The plant is little, it at all, used in modern herbalism though the leaves are a good external treatment for many skin diseases and inflammation. The leaves are astringent and sedative. They have been used externally to make a poultice or a wash in the treatment of many skin diseases, open sores, wounds that will not heal and inflammation. Used internally, the leaves have a splendid effect in the treatment of active hemorrhages, diarrhea and flux. They should be used with great caution however, and only under the supervision of a qualified practitioner.

Poisonous Properties

Swamp 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.

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