Adirondack Wildflowers:  Labrador Tea at the Paul Smiths VIC

Adirondack Wildflowers:
Labrador Tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum)

Adirondack Wildflowers:  Labrador Tea in bloom (30 May 2012) Adirondack Wildflowers: Labrador Tea in bloom on Barnum Bog (30 May 2012)

Labrador Tea is a low, evergreen shrub that grows in Adirondack wetlands. The plant has densely hairy twigs and rounded, terminal clusters of white flowers. This northern shrub, typical of acidic, boggy areas, can easily be recognized by the woolly brown undersurfaces of its leaves. It grows up to three feet tall, with smooth bark which is coppery-orange to reddish brown. The thick, glossy, narrowly elliptic leaves are aromatic. Their smooth edges turn downward, creating a raised rim around the lower surface, which is covered by a dense mat of tangled woolly hairs, which are white on young leaves and rusty on mature leaves. The leaves have been used to make tea and folk medicines, although some sources warn that all parts of the plant are highly toxic and may be fatal if eaten. In northern Canada, the plant is known as Hudson's Bay Tea.

The plant usually blooms in June, producing clusters of small (1/3" wide) white flowers with five petals. The tiny white flowers are very fragrant and sticky.

Labrador Tea grows in northern latitudes around the world. In Europe, it occurs south to the Alps, and in the United States, it reaches as far south as northern Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey in the east, and Oregon in the west. In the north country, Labrador Tea grows in bogs, fens, swamps, drier acidic soil, and sometimes on rocky alpine slopes. Plants growing at higher elevations are often stunted. The plant is common in tamarack and black spruce swamps and in conifer woods throughout the region.

Adirondack Wildflowers: Labrador Tea in bloom (26 May 2012)Labrador Tea in bloom at the Paul Smiths VIC (26 May 2012)

Labrador Tea grows in northern latitudes around the world. In Europe, it occurs south to the Alps, and in the United States, it reaches as far south as northern Pennsylvania, Ohio and New Jersey in the east, and Oregon in the west.

In the north country, Labrador Tea grows in bogs, fens, swamps, drier acidic soil, and sometimes on rocky alpine slopes. Plants growing at higher elevations are often stunted. The plant is common in tamarack and black spruce swamps and in conifer woods throughout the region.

At the Paul Smiths VIC, Labrador Tea grows in the Barnum Bog, where it can be observed along the Boreal Life Trail boardwalk. The plant can also be seen on the edges of Heron Marsh. The plant usually begins blooming in May.

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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

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