In 2010, the rhododendron and mountain laurel collections at the Jenkins Arboretum became nationally recognized as the Arboretum joined the American Public Gardens Association’s Plant Collections Network – a group of botanical institutions dedicated to preserving plant germplasm.
Since its inception in 1976, Jenkins Arboretum & Gardens has built a noteworthy collection of ericaceous plants. In addition to a world-class collection of rhododendrons and azaleas, the Arboretum has amassed a fine collection of Kalmia, or laurels. Of the seven Kalmia species native to North America, climate limits the Jenkins collection to only K. latifolia, mountain laurel, and its thin-leaved cousin K. angustifolia, sheep laurel. It is interesting to note that these are the only two species native to this region of Pennsylvania.
While the Arboretum’s Kalmia collection is significantly smaller than its Rhododendron collection, it is still quite diverse with nearly 300 plants representing 44 taxa. The mountain laurels are most prominent with 40 cultivars on display and dozens of specimens growing wild on the rocky hillside. Jenkins is always looking to expand the collection by adding new varieties and hybrids and hopes to try growing some of the five species that are not currently part of the collection (K. carolina, K. cuneata, K. ericoides, K. hirsuta, and K. polifolia).