Laurel flowers – occasionally referred to as mountain laurels – are a single species in the kalmia genus, which is a member of the ericaceae family. Although many people think of the lauraceae family when they think of laurels, this family’s flowers are tiny and inconspicuous, and tend to blend in with the rest of the plant. On the other hand, mountain laurels are slightly larger – growing roughly one inch across – and come in a very clear shade of snowy white with dark pink accents, or a simple shade of light pink. These blossoms are native to areas of the eastern United States, and burst forth from evergreen shrubs.
Modern gardeners are not the only ones to confuse laurel flowers with lauraceae family plants. Because of the appearance of the leaves – which are superficially similar to those of laurus nobilis, or bay leaves – Europeans, who came upon this plant in the New World, began calling them laurel shrubs. Their scientific name, however, differentiated these two families. Although their first recorded piece of history came about in 1624, they were not given a proper scientific name until some time during the 18th century, when Pehr Kalm sent samples of the plant to the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus. Although it took some time to be recognized around the world, laurel flowers have long had a quiet following in America. The wood of these plants were once used by Native Americans to create makeshift utensils; while early settlers once used the wood to create arbors for clockworks. Though these plants are considered quite toxic, especially to small animals, many people still note their strong medicinal properties – albeit less frequently in more modern times. They are best known as being a powerful analgesic and antiseptic, and are frequently used to treat a variety of skin conditions, scratches and cuts. They are also used to help in easing arthritis, ridding the system of parasites, and relieving the sound of ringing in the ears.
Laurel flowers are thought to represent ambition, as well as success and renown. As a gift, these blossoms are most commonly given to those heading into new phases of their life – starting a new job, going to school, even getting married or having children. They are meant to represent a wish for the recipient to have all of the success in the world, or to continue to push on with their lofty ambitions, despite any roadblocks they may come across.