Linnaea borealis


Twinflower in Bloom, Little Beartrack Lake, BWCAW

Twinflower in bloom
Little Beartrack Lake, BWCAW
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook

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


  • Linnaea, after Carolus Linnaeus
  • borealis, from the Latin "of the North"
  • Common Name, a reference to the paired flower cluster
  • Other common names include Linnée (Qué), Linnea, giktgräs (Swe), Linnea (Nor), Linnæa (Dan), Vanamo (Fin), Moosglöckchen (Ger), Lus Linneuis (Gaelic), Zimozió³ pó³nocny (Pol)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Asteridae
        • Order Dipsacales
          • Family Caprifoliaceae, the Honeysuckles, with Diervilla (Bush Honeysuckles), Lonicera (True Honeysuckles), Sambucus (Elderberries), Symphoricarpos (Snowberries), and Viburnum (Viburnums)
            • Genus Linnaea, Twinflower
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 35314


  • A native,creeping broadleaf evergreen shrublet, 4"-6" tall.
  • Leaves round, opposite; persisting for two years.
  • Stems creeping or trailing, with numerous short aerial stems rising from the stolon. With time, stolons may become shallowly buried beneath litter and duff layers; aerial stems become woody with age but rarely exceed 1/8" in diameter.
  • Roots shallow, fibrous network, within and slightly below the duff layer. Root crown positioned at or just beneath the duff or soil surface.
  • Flowers pink, bell-like in pairs; very fragrant. Blooms June through September over most of its range. Flowers last about 7 days.
  • Fruit a small, dry, one-seeded capsule, maturing approximately 36 days after flowering.


  • Unmistakeable when in bloom; there is nothing else like it in the northwoods.
  • Small round leaves and ground hugging linear growth habit distinguish it from other shrublets.


  • Circumboreal


  • Open shade
  • Dry or moist sites in pine woods
  • Sandy, acid soil (pH 5 to 6)
  • Twinflower grows in soils derived from a variety of parent materials. Soil texture and nutrient levels also vary, and soil moisture levels range from xeric to hydric.


  • A fire avoider, killed even by low-intensity fire. During fire, small patches in draws, moist duff, or other protected places usually escape burning. Most commonly establishes in burn areas from stolons produced by these unburned plants. Also establishes from animal-dispersed seed.



  • Used by Native Americans to brew a tea



  • Vegetative reproduction by stolons primary method of regeneration. First produces stolons at 5-10 years of age.
  • Sexual reproduction uncommon, but seedlings are occasionally found in burned or other disturbed areas.
  • Pollination by native bees and syrphid wasps; rarely are plants self-fertile. Produces abundant seed, which does not persist in seedbanks.
  • Seed attaches to the fur, hides, or feathers of animals, which serve as dispersal agents.


  • By rhizome division,


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • No known cultivars
  • Very slow to establish



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Last updated on 7 March, 2006