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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Alpine Bog Laurel - Kalmia microphylla
Other Names:  Kalmia polifolia ssp. microphylla, Kalmia occidentalis

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
C-value: 5

Agency Status


External Links

General Description
Alpine Bog Laurel is a low, evergreen shrub with branched, ascending to prostrate stems that are generally 2-5 dm long and which root at the nodes. The narrowly elliptic leaves are 2-4 cm long, are opposite, and have short petioles and entire, rolled-under margins. They are dark green and glabrous above but densely gray-hairy and glandular below. Several flowers are borne on stalks that are 2-4 cm long at the stem tips. The calyx has 5 deep lobes that are 2-3 mm long, and the deep pink, bowl-shaped, 5-lobed corolla is 12-18 mm broad. There are 10 stamens. The fruit is a nearly round capsule that is 2-3 mm high; it opens by 5 slits radiating from the center.

Flowering in May.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Our only species of Kalmia. Reports of K. polifolia in the strict sense for Montana are based on larger-statured plants of K. microphylla. The diagnostic characters of club-shaped, purple trichomes along the leaf midribs and seeds >1.5 mm used to distinguish K. polifolia as treated by Ebinger (1974) and in the Flora of North America are not present in Montana material. Leaf size and shrub height which have been used to distinguish between the two species do not appear to be good morphological characters as they are highly variable, influenced by environmental conditions and overlap in the characters between the two species does occur.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
UT, AB, AK and YT, OR, WA, ID, MT, WY, CO, NV and CA.

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 164

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

Fens, moist to wet, organic soil of spruce forest openings and margins, margins of lakes and ponds from valley bottoms to the subalpine zone.

The following animal species have been reported as pollinators of this plant species or its genus where their geographic ranges overlap: Bombus fervidus, Bombus pensylvanicus, and Bombus impatiens (Colla and Dumesh 2010).

  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Colla, S.R. and S. Dumesh. 2010. The bumble bees of southern Ontario: notes on natural history and distribution. Journal of the Entomological Society of Ontario 141:39-68.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Hawkins, P.H. 1903. The alpine flora of Montana. M.Sc. Thesis, Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 24 pp.
    • Jones, W. W. 1901. Preliminary flora of Gallatin County. M.S. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State College. 78 pp.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2012. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 771 p.
    • Lesica, P., M.T. Lavin, and P.F. Stickney. 2022. Manual of Montana Vascular Plants, Second Edition. Fort Worth, TX: BRIT Press. viii + 779 p.
    • Saunders, J.K. Jr. 1955. Food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. Journal of Wildlife Management 19(4):429-437.
    • Saunders, J.K., Jr. 1954. A two-year investigation of the food habits and range use of the Rocky Mountain goat in the Crazy Mountains, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 22 p.
    • Williams, K.L. 2012. Classification of the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, forests and alpine vegetation associations of the Custer National Forest portion of the Beartooth Mountains in southcentral Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University. 376 p.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Alpine Bog Laurel"
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Citation for data on this website:
Alpine Bog Laurel — Kalmia microphylla.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from