Explore! ➡️ State Flower: Mountain Laurel

Pennsylvania is all around us and we

want to help you to explore our state

hi I'm Beth Erickson museum educator at

the State Museum of Pennsylvania join me

today as we explore the state symbols of

Pennsylvania Pennsylvania is home to

many flowers if you had to pick a

favorite flower to represent the state

what would you choose

rhododendron dandelion chirp I read that

one has a funny name well the selection

of the state flower of Pennsylvania was

not a smooth process it started in 1927

when the Pennsylvania General Assembly

considered adopting the tulip tree and

the flower of the tulip tree as

Pennsylvania's official state tree and

flower the legislation was considered a

great length but in the end no action

was taken so in 1933 they tried again

but the General Assembly was still

unable to reach an agreement so this

time they passed two bills for state

flowers one bill for the mountain laurel

and the other for the pink azalea and

deferred the decision-making to the

governor at that time gifford pinchot so

how did the governor decide which bill

to sign into law well no one knows for

sure but there is a story that governor

Pinchot preferred the pink Azalea but

his wife Cornelia preferred the mountain

laurel regardless of how it was decided

on May 5th 1933 governor gifford pinchot

signed the mountain laurel bill into law

declaring it the state flower of

pennsylvania the state of connecticut

also chose the mountain laurel as their

state flower mountain laurel is found

throughout the state and is part of

Pennsylvania's history in the early 18th

century mountain laurel was cultivated

as a flowering ornamental and was used

as decoration especially for holiday

wreaths and floral arrangements it was

even exported for use as an exotic

flower in English gardens looming in the

spring it is one of the few broad-leaved

native plants that does not lose its

leaves in winter mountain laurel is a

woody plant and member of the heath

family which also includes azaleas

blueberries cranberries huckleberries

and rhododendron mountain laurel may be

beautiful but it can also be deadly it

turns out that all green parts of the

plant are poisonous and can be fatal

well not everything beautiful is good to

eat the mountain laurel also has a

unique adaptation to dispense pollen so

we know that flowers need pollen to

reproduce and the flowers have

reproductive parts an individual

mountain laurel flower has ten filaments

and anthers which hold the pollen as the

flower blooms the filaments are pulled

backward in an arc creating a hair light

trigger the filaments are under tension

ready to launch pollen into the air when

a pollinator begins to explore the

flower its weight releases the stamen

and the filament hurls or catapults the

pollen at up to eight miles per hour

toward the center of the flower hitting

the underside of the pollinator the

catapult ensures that the pollinator

contacts the pollen and promotes the

future reproduction of mountain laurel


who doesn't like a catapult I guess that

cool feature makes up for the horrible

poisoning possibility so the next time

you were out for a walk in tens woods

look for our state flower the mountain

laurel near the edge of the forest or on

a wooded hillside but watch out for that

catapult pollen save that for the bees I

hope you enjoyed learning about the

mountain Laura flower and its selection

as a state flower of Pennsylvania visit

our web page for more on how to make a

pollen catapult