Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Rhododendron groenlandicum (Oeder) Kron and Judd
ERICACEAE (Heath Family)
EtymologyRhododendron means red tree, from the Greek: rhodos = red, or rose + dendron=tree; groendlandicum is Latin for of or from Greenland.
Synonyms (Common Name)Muskeg Tea, Marsh Tea, Country Tea
DescriptionLabrador tea is a common ericaceous shrub of northern bogs and cool, moist peatlands. It is a many-branched, low to medium (1 -- 3 1/2') shrub noted for its spicy fragrance and rust-colored, woolly hairs on its branchlets and the undersides of its leaves. Although Labrador tea is considered an evergreen, the leaves do not last longer than two growing seasons. Leaves were brewed for tea or medicinal tonic by native and other settlers; however, the leaves contain acetylandromedon which can be toxic, except in very small quantities.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height1-3.5 feet
LeavesEvergreen, alternate, simple, entire, 1/2 - 2" long; elliptical to lanceolate, margins are strongly inrolled; leathery, dark green above; underside densely covered with white (newer leaves) or rust-colored woolly hairs.
Flower/InflorescenceCreamy-white, small (3/8"), 5 spreading petals with 5-7 protruding stamens; borne on long, slender stalks; in terminal clusters of 12 or more blossoms.
Flowering PeriodMay-July
FruitCapsule, small (1/4"), slender, 5-parted; opens from the base upward (the only bog plant to do so) with long, persistent style; terminally clustered on long, nodding stems.
Fruiting PeriodSeptember-October; persistent throughout winter.
HabitatBogs, margins of forested wetlands and shrub swamps, alpine slopes.
RangeLabrador to Alaska; south to Connecticut, New Jersey, Michigan, and Washington.
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett