Rhododendron groenlandicum (Labrador Tea)

Plant Info
Also known as:
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial woody
Habitat:part shade, sun; cedar/spruce bogs, sphagnum wetlands, lake and stream shores
Bloom season:May - June
Plant height:1 to 3 feet
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACW MW: OBL NCNE: OBL
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: round

[photo of flowers] Spidery rounded cluster of 10 to 40 flowers on slender stalks at the end of branching stems. Flowers are white, about 1/3 inch across with 5 oval petals and 5 to 10 long white stamens surrounding the small green round ovary in the center. The next season's bloom is formed in late summer and appears as a large scaly bud at the of the evergreen terminals (see more photos below). The brown bud scales fall away from the floral base the next spring when the flowers bloom.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are evergreen into 2nd year, simple, alternate, narrow to broader and oblong, tapered or blunt at ends, 1 to 2¼ inches long, ¼ to 2/3 inch wide, on a short stalk. The upper surface is dark green, smooth to sparsely hairy, with a leathery texture; the underside is woolly white the first year becoming copper colored the next year. Leaf edges are smooth and rolled under. Stems are upright; new stems densely covered with coppery hairs that gray by second year and persist for number of years. The bark on old wood is gray.


Of its three contemporary, and of similar habit, evergreen wetland shrubs—Chamaedaphne calyculata, Kalmia polifolia and Andromeda glaucophylla—you don't always have to slog into a bog to see this one. Labrador Tea is quite common throughout the northeastern third of Minnesota—I've seen it along many lakeshores right in forest service campgrounds or lakeside roads in the Arrowhead. It does do best in sphagnum bogs however, forming colonies via rooting stems or rhizomes in the sphagnum. Formerly known as Ledum groenlandicum, I, not being a trained taxonimist and not read the journals, have always questioned why it was not in the Rhododendron genus. Apparently it now is.

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken at several locations in central Aitkin county and Carlton county.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Lou - Moose Lake, MN
on: 2012-06-05 13:30:53

Our woods are filled with this plant.

Posted by: malinda - waskish minn
on: 2013-05-28 15:15:57

How do you make tea from this plant? It says that it helps with the stomach flu and other stomach and digestive problems

Posted by: Kelly O. - Duluth
on: 2014-12-08 16:00:05

My sister and I make a tea from this plant. It has the best flavor when gathered in the spring, and the tea can either be prepared with fresh or dried leaves. It has a somewhat swampy taste, but paired with wild mint, it is wonderful. Keep in mind, I have found warnings against consumption when nursing or pregnant.

Posted by: tom - Isanti County
on: 2016-06-15 21:33:35

Found a small clump in a tamarack swamp just east of Horseleg Lake and Anderson County Park.

Posted by: George - Duluth
on: 2017-09-29 12:54:18

This site was helpful in ID'ing a plant for a friend - thank you! I had learned this as Ledum many years ago.

Posted by: Sarah F J - Princeton
on: 2017-12-21 12:18:40

Was excited to find a small patch of this in our tamarack swamp today (Isanti County just west of Green Lake).

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