Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Taxonomy
Myrica gale L.
MYRICACEAE (Sweet Gale Family)
EtymologyMyrica is from myrike, the Greek word for tamarisk tree, because Tamarix and Myrica are related genera; gale, the origin is unknown, pehaps from the Old English or German surname "Gagel."
Synonyms (Common Name)Bog Gale, Bog Myrtle
DescriptionA deciduous, broad-leaved shrub with many ascending branches, sweet gale grows in low, colonial thickets usually 2-3' tall, but it can grow to 6' tall. When the leaves or catkins are rubbed or crushed, sweet gale releases a strong, aromatic scent like bayberry. Sweet gale's branches are rusty-brown to purplish and are often spotted with yellow. The roots have nitrogen-fixing nodules.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height2-3 feet
LeavesDeciduous, alternate, simple, entire except the rounded tip is toothed; 1 - 2 1/2" long; oblanceolate, wedge-shaped base; gray-green; yellow resin dots and white hairs on underside.
Flower/InflorescenceMale and female catkins are usually on separate plants. However, some plants may produce both male and female catkins on separate stalks or even on the same stalk. Some plants may switch sex from year to year. Male catkins: slim, cylindrical, 2/5 -- 4/5" long, with brownish scales in terminal clusters. Female catkins: ovoid, cone-like, 3/10 -- 1/2" long, clustered near the axils of last year's branches.
Flowering PeriodApril-June, before the leaves appear. New male catkin buds appear in the fall and remain tightly closed during winter
FruitNutlet, tiny (to 1/8"), oval, 2-winged; borne in cone-like female catkin.
Fruiting PeriodJune-July, persisting throughout the winter.
HabitatBogs, fens, shrub swamps, margins of ponds and lakes.
RangeNewfoundland to Alaska, south to New Jersey, Minnesota and Oregon; eastern mountains to North Carolina.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett