Native Plant of the Month: Labrador Tea

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Labrador Tea – Ledum groenlandicum


Highly valued for its numerous medicinal uses, Labrador tea is an especially bog-loving species. It can tolerate standing water and stresses like low nutrients and acidic soils. Ledum groenlandicumresponds to low-intensity fires by re-sprouting from stems. Fire stimulates new growth and increases the plant’s fitness.

Labrador Tea is a perennial plant that grows 2-5 feet tall in coastal and wetland environments and has been recognized for its natural insecticide properties. This evergreen shrub has fragrant, long, 1 -3 inch leaves that have tiny red hairs on the underside. White flowers can be found in clusters that flower April – June.

Whether it be a headache, cough, or lung infection, Labrador tea treats aliments. Historically, many indigenous groups used its leaves as a blood purifier, diuretic, analgesic, blood purifier, and general tonic. When used as a tea, it can treat colds, stomach aches, and asthma. Burns, stings, and itches were also treated with Labrador tea. There can, however, be too much of a good thing; some sources do not suggest drinking this tea more than once daily. Concentrated doses and incorrect preparations can be toxic. As with any medicine, it is important to seek expert guidance. Especially since Labrador tea grows next to bog laurel, which is poisonous to animals and people.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it can naturally recolonize disturbed powerline corridors in bogs. There are problems though, Labrador tea thrives after fire. Prescribed burns are not as common as when First Nation groups lived with wetlands. With the decrease in grazers in bogs, confiers and hardwoods encroach on its territory. These trees can shade the tea out and compete for nutrients.

Useful, nose-catching, and versatile, it’s hard not to appreciate this significant species. Keep an eye out for Labrador tea at the end of SHADOW’s boardwalk! 

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SHADOW Intern Gabrielle (Gabi) Esparza