Ledum groenlandicum

Labrador Tea

Ledum groenlandicum, Labrador Tea

Labrador Tea, BWCAW
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Ledum, from the Greek ledon (ledon), the ancient Greek name used by Dioscorides for the Cistus (Rockrose).
  • groenlandicum, "of Greenland ", a reference to its northern distribution
  • Common Name yet another reference to its northern distribution and to its common use as a tea by native Americans
  • Other common names include Bog Labrador Tea, James Tea, Marsh Tea, Swamp Tea, Muskeegobug Aniibi (Ojibwe; "swamp growing tea", contains the Ojibwe root for the English "muskeg"), Muskeko-pukwa (Cree), Wish-a-ca-pucca (Chipewyan), Skvattram, getpors, vildpors (Swedish), Finnmarkspors (Nor), Mose-Post (Dan), Suopursu (Fin), Sumpf-Porst (Ger)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 23546
  • Also known as Ledum pacificum, Ledum palustre, Ledum palustre ssp. groenlandicum, Ledum palustre var. latifolium, Rhododendron groenlandicum


  • Form prostrate to erect, generally circular in outline.
  • Leaves 1"-3", edges curled down, with brown hairs on underside. [Photo]
  • Roots in the organic layer. Rhizome depth can reach 6" - 20"
  • Flowers tiny white clusters on slender stalks at the ends of the branches
  • Fruit a dry capsule with many tiny seeds.



  • Alaska to Greenland, south through New England, the northern parts of the Lake States, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.


  • Open or closed forest habitats, primarily with Black or White Spruce (Picea mariana, Picea glauca). Can also dominate or codominate in dwarf shrub communities, bogs, muskegs, or open tundra.
  • Most common on wetter sites with low subsurface water flow and low nutrients. Reaches its greatest cover in bogs. Often abundant in the shaded portions of the forest.


  • Sprouts from rhizomes or the root crown following low to moderate severity fires. One of the first plants to recolonize burned bogs; grows rapidly following fire.



  • As a folk medicine the tea was used externally for all kinds of skin problems. Taken internally, the tea was used to stimulate the nerves and stomach. A syrup made from the tea was sometimes used for coughs and hoarseness.


  • The strongly aromatic leaves of can be used to make a palatable herbal tea, rich in vitamin C.


  • Reproduces primarily vegetatively but can reproduce by seed . It regenerates vegetatively through sprouting from rhizomes. Length and depth of rhizomes are greatly influenced by soil and moisture characteristics
  • Flowers late May/early June. Fruits ripen late August through late fall.


  • By seed, following cold stratification.


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Some shade
    • Prefers cool, moist, acidic soils



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Last updated on 7 March, 2006