Rhododendron groenlandicum (Labrador Tea)
|Also known as:|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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 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.
Notes: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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Where to buy native seed and plants ↓
- Labrador Tea plant
- colony of Labrador Tea
- spring Labrador Tea with Bog Laurel and Buckbean
- more flowers
- coppery color in winter
- terminal bud, foliage greening up in spring
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?