Bogs and Acidic Peatlands of Southern New England by Marsha C. Salett
Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench.
ERICACEAE (Heath Family)
EtymologyChamaecyparis means dwarf laurel, from the Greek: chamai = low, on the ground + daphne = laurel; calyculata means with a small calyx, from the Greek: kalux = husk, cover, or calyx + ulata = diminutive suffix.
Synonyms (Common Name)Cassandra
DescriptionGrowing in dense thickets, leatherleaf is often the dominant shrub of open areas in bogs and acidic peatlands. A profusely branched, low to medium (1 -- 3 1/2' (sometimes to 5')) ericaceous shrub, it forms the framework upon which Sphagnum mosses build floating mats. Leatherleaf is easily recognized by its alternate branchlets that spread nearly horizontally from a main vertical branch; the leaves get progressively smaller toward the tip of the branchlet. Considered an evergreen, leatherleaf does retain most of its leaves during the winter. However, the leaves fall off by the end of the second growing season.
Wetland indicator statusOBL
Plant Height1-3.5 feet;sometimes to 5 feet
LeavesEvergreen, alternate, simple, entire (but may have indistinct teeth), 1 1/2-2" long, but get progressively smaller as they reach the tips of the twigs; oblong to elliptical, leathery, dull green; undersides have tiny, dense, brown scales; dull maroon-bronze in winter.
Flower/InflorescenceWhite, small (1/4"), urn-shaped, 5-lobed; in one-sided rows of 10-30 flowers that hang downward beneath a leafy twig. Buds form in autumn and bloom the following spring.
Flowering PeriodApril-June
FruitCapsule, tiny (less than 1/4"), round, 5-parted, with the persistent style protruding pin-like from the center; capsules point upward; green, then turning hard and brown.
Fruiting PeriodMay-July, persisting through winter and sometimes into next growing season.
HabitatBogs, poor fens, acidic non-forested peatlands, pond margins.
RangeLabrador to Alaska; south to New Jersey, Ohio, mountains to North Carolina.
Similar Species
(c) 1998-2006 Marsha C. Salett