Shrubs of the Adirondack Mountains:  Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) on the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (31 May 2014)

Adirondack Shrubs:
Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia)

Shrubs of the Adirondack Mountains:  Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) on the Boreal Life Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC (23 May 2015) Adirondack Shrubs: Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) on the Boreal Life Trail (23 May 2015)

Bog Rosemary (Andromeda polifolia) is a small, native evergreen shrub with blue-gray foliage which produces small pinkish flowers in spring. It grows in bogs at the Paul Smiths VIC and other locations in the Adirondack Mountains and upstate New York. Bog Rosemary is a member of the Heath family. The common name of this plant reflects the fact that its leaves are similar to those of common garden Rosemary, although the two plants are totally unrelated. The Bog Rosemary was given its Latin name by Linnaeus, who compared it with the goddess Andromeda: Andromeda was chained to a rock in the sea, while the Bog Rosemary is fixed to the middle of wetlands.

Identification of Bog Rosemary: Bog Rosemary is one of several leathery-leafed plants growing in swampy or boggy habitats. It grows up to two feet tall. The plant has small terminal clusters of bell-shaped nodding flowers, which appear in mid-spring. Each flower is about a quarter of an inch long. The flowers are usually pale pink, but can also be white. The dark green evergreen leaves are 2 inches long and about a quarter of an inch wide. The leaf margins are smooth. The leaves are alternate; that is, the leaves merge from the stem one at a time. The leaves roll inwards. The underside of the leaves is whitened by tiny hairs. The fruit is a dry, rounded capsule, appearing in July.

Flowering Shrubs of the Adirondacks: The narrow, blue-green leaves of the Bog Rosemary are curled inward. Bog Rosemary in bud on the Boreal Life Trail (17 May 2014).
The narrow, blue-green leaves of the Bog Rosemary are curled inward. Bog Rosemary in bud on the Boreal Life Trail (17 May 2014).

Keys to identifying Bog Rosemary and differentiating it from other leathery-leafed plants growing in swampy or boggy habitats include the leaf arrangement and the flowers.

Flowering Shrubs of the Adirondacks: The fruits of Bog Rosemary appear in small, rounded capsules. Bog Rosemary on the Boreal Life Trail (6 July 2013)
The fruits of Bog Rosemary appear in small, rounded capsules, each with five sections. Bog Rosemary on the Boreal Life Trail (6 July 2013).

Uses of Bog Rosemary: Although some Native American Indian tribes reportedly used the fresh or dried leaves of Bog Rosemary for a tea, all parts of the plant are said to be toxic in large quantities. No parts of it should be eaten. Symptoms of poisoning include watering of the mouth, eyes, and nose; loss of energy; slow pulse; vomiting; low blood pressure; lack of coordination; convulsion; and progressive paralysis.

Distribution of Bog Rosemary: Bog Rosemary grows in acidic soil in bogs and fens in the northeast US, as well as throughout Canada. The plant may be found in bogs at the Paul Smiths VIC and other locations in the Adirondack Mountains and upstate New York.

At the Paul Smiths VIC, you can find Bog Rosemary on Barnum Bog, accessible from the Boreal Life Trail boardwalk. Bog Rosemary usually blooms in this part of the Adirondack Park in May, depending on the weather. Look for Bog Rosemary growing alongside other bog-dwelling evergreen shrubs, including Labrador Tea, Bog Laurel, and Sheep Laurel. Wildflowers that flourish in this habitat include Cotton Grass, Pitcher Plant, Grass Pink, Rose Pogonia, Buckbean, and Marsh Cinquefoil. Birds found in this habitat include the Palm Warbler, Lincoln's Sparrow, and Yellow-bellied Flycatcher.

References

Wildflowers and Flowering Shrubs of the Adirondack Park



Explore the VIC

The Paul Smiths VIC offers a wide variety of programs throughout the year to educate and inform Adirondack Park residents and visitors about the natural wonders of the Adirondack Mountains. You can help support these programs by joining the Friends of the VIC. More information on Friends of the VIC memberships

Explore the Trails

The VIC trails are free and open to the public, from dawn to dusk, spring through fall. In winter, the trails are open to cross-country skiers and snowshoers for a fee. Day or season passes may be purchased.