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The plant is naturally found on rocky slopes and mountainous forest areas. It thrives in acidic soil, preferring a soil pH in the 4.5 to 5.5 range. The plant often grows in large thickets, covering great areas of forest floor. In the Appalachians, it can become tree-sized but is a shrub farther north. The species is a frequent component of oak-heath forests. In low, wet areas, it grows densely, but in dry uplands has a more sparse form. In the southern Appalachians, laurel thickets are referred to as "laurel hells" because it's nearly impossible to pass through one.
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