Although they are quite beautiful, mountain laurel flowers, like the rest of the shrub, are also quite poisonous.
Bees are attracted to the mountain laurel and, if they spend a lot of the season collecting pollen and nectar from it, they can produce a poisonous honey. There is no way of telling which honey bees have been collecting where so the offending honey cannot be identified. Before you buy it, the honey has probably been diluted with honey from other areas, and the symptoms will probably be quite mild. If you find that you are having gastrointestinal problems after starting a new jar of honey, mountain laurel could be the culprit, especially if you buy from local apiarists who have their hives near the plant.
The flowers are very attractive to children with a delicious aroma and often grow within easy reach. The nectar in the flowers forms quite a large drop and children are often made ill by trying to suck the sweet liquid out of the flowers. The nectar can induce vomiting, stomach pains and a runny nose. It is often enough to handle the flowers or leaves to receive a mild dose of ill effects. If you have mountain laurels growing near you, be sure to let children know of the danger.
The leaves of the mountain laurel are as bad as the flowers. It is unfortunate that, like the honey, the leaves taste just fine and animals are not put off from eating them. The leaves can induce staggering, convulsions, difficulty with breathing and drooling. The poison in the flowers and leaves can survive a long time and even dead leaves can affect you.
The Most Dangerous Parts
The mountain laurel is poisonous in all aspects. The poison is at its strongest in the young shoots and leaves. Whenever you handle mountain laurel you should be very careful about washing your hands.
Mountain laurel can produce fatal results in animals that eat too much of the leaves and stems. Goats are particularly vulnerable as are small birds like budgerigars.
The poison of the mountain laurel is in every part of the plant so it makes sense to keep them out of the reach of children and animals. Although it isn’t compulsory, a small fence round your mountain laurels could help make people aware of the danger.
Although many people might have been made ill by mountain laurel and made a full recovery, the potency of the poison should not be ignored. The progression from initial ingestion to death can be quite rapid in a person who has health issues. The main toxin is called andromedo toxin. This toxin acts on blood circulation by lowering the blood pressure. This leads to drowsiness. The drowsiness allows the toxin to concentrate until it can attack the central nervous system. Convulsions occur, which can be quite severe, with death being preceded by a sort of creeping paralysis.
The mountain laurel is a very attractive plant with very pretty flowers, but never forget that this shrub has a more sinister side.