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Mountain laurel flower buds.

Mountain laurel flower buds.

The dominant shrub of large parts of the Escarpment of the Catskills – its eastern flank facing the Hudson River Valley – is mountain laurel, Kalmia latifolia.  There are good populations of mountain laurel in several places on the Escarpment, but probably the largest population is on Ashokan High Point, where mountain laurel covers most of the southern and eastern flanks of the mountaintop, and with probably close to two miles of trail lined by the shrub.

Mountain laurel’s bloom display varies from year to year.  You get advance warning of how well a shrub will bloom because it sets visible flower buds in the fall. This fall, after a growing season with lots of sunshine and relatively little rain, almost every mountain laurel plant up on Ashokan High Point is now covered in flower buds – more than I have ever seen before, certainly the best bud set in a decade and possibly longer.  It could happen that the flower buds could be killed by harsh conditions between now and then, but in truth I’ve never seen this on mountain laurel – its flower buds are extremely hardy.

In other words, the prognosis is for an extraordinary display of blooms sometime from late May to late June (actual flowering time depends on weather).  Mountain laurel blooms last for weeks, so the display should be easy to catch.  I’m not certain if the bloom set is as good in other Catskill populations, but I would presume it is.  Pencil it into your 2016 calendars to get on up to the top of Ashokan High Point in June.