The Labrador tea is a bushy shrub that grows up to one metre tall. Its leaves are narrow, slightly inverted at the edges, and have rust-brown hairs on their underside. Its big white flower clusters bloom in June and July with a strong fragrant aroma. The plant belongs to the same family as the alpenrose.
The Labrador tea grows in different types of marshes – most commonly in bogs – although it is sometimes found in heath forests and the tundra zone. The species is common in the Northern Hemisphere’s coniferous forests and tundra.
The plant excretes essential oils, which it uses to defend itself and where its characteristic fragrance is from. In the past, Labrador tea branches were used to protect clothing and cattle from pests and even to flavour beer. It has a long history as a medicinal plant. It was once possible to buy it from pharmacies in Finland, even though it is mildly toxic.
Labrador tea is an intermediate host of a needle rust fungus Chrysomyxa ledi. Heavy outbreaks of this fungus can affect to spruce growth.
As a common forest species that thrives in several different habitats, Labrador tea does not require any special protection measures.
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