Labrador-tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum) is an evergreen shrub growing in sunny acidic locations. It prefers wet locations. I recently visited a location and observed it in its winter condition. Its evergreen leaves shrivel up to conserve moisture. They are revolute meaning the margins curl under the leaf blade. The young leaves have white woolly hairs that turn rusty–brown with age. A large terminal flower bud appeared on most branches with a small lateral leaf bud. Seed capsules were still present and will persist for several years. They are unique in the way they split, starting from the base and opening upward.
One of my favorite sights in early summer is the white flowers of Labrador-tea along the edge of a bog. They bloom in terminal clusters, held high above the leaves. Insects pollinate them and often they are visited by solitary bees.
Labrador-tea is common in the Upper Peninsula and the Northern Lower Peninsula. It was known as Ledum groenlandicum. Because it easily hybridizes with other Rhododendrons in cultivation it should not be in its own genus.
Copyright 2018 by Donald Drife
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