After the seasonal leaves have fallen, you can usually still see some green leaves growing on the side of a mountain or near a stream. Some people call it all Mountain Laurel and some people call it all Rhododendron.
I had heard those two names used for the twisty, green trees that grow up in the mountains, but I never took the time to find out what the proper name was. While they do kind of look the same all bunched up out in the woods, they are two different types of plants.
However, it’s easy to tell them apart when you know what to look for.
Laurel is a short word for short leaf
Laurel is a word you see all over the place in the mountains. How many different Laurel Trails are there anyway? But Laurel is a nice, short word. (Yanni is also a short word, but we won’t get into that here.) So it’s fitting that a plant with a short name like laurel would also have a short leaf.
Rhododendron is a long word for a long leaf
Rhododendron on the other hand is not a cute, little short name. It’s a longer word, so it’s fitting that a plant with such a long name would have long leaf.
It’s that simple.
Now you’ll be able to tell them apart when you are out on the trail. What I love about both of these plants is that they tend to grow so thick along the trails. They sometimes turn into what feels like a tunnel. You can walk right by them and never know what’s hiding just feet away from you as you pass right by.