distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page forthis species on the PLANTS Web site.
: Bog Labrador tea grows in bogs, fens,muskegs, open tundra, and dwarf shrub communities.It covers significant areas in bogs with black andwhite spruce (
), andtamarack (
) in the boreal forests of Canada and high-elevation northeastern UnitedStates; eastern hemlock (
), pitchpine (
), eastern white pine (
), sugar maple (
), white ash(
), and paper birch (
) in the Northeast and Great Lakes region;as an understory shrub in open or closed moist forestsin association with lodgepole pine (
), Sitka spruce (
) andwestern hemlock (
) in the Pacificcoastal forests of Oregon, Washington, Canada, andAlaska; and shrub birch (
) in theYukon (Gleason and Cronquist 1991; Pettinger andCostanzo 2002; Strong 2002; Tiner 1991).
Plants can be started from seed or root-crowndivision. Collect the seeds from dry capsules andplant them in fall or spring in a moist peaty soil, in asunny spot. Water them thoroughly after planting andkeep moist. Suckers with roots can be split off fromthe base of the plant in mid-December andtransplanted during spring (Pettinger and Costanzo2002; MacKenzie 1997; Young and Young 1992;Dirr and Heuser 1987).
Many of the fens and bogs that provide importanthabitat for bog Labrador tea in North America werecreated by glaciation. These wetlands have beendisappearing over thousands of years, due to adecrease in native ungulates that graze the bogs, andencroachment by conifers and hardwoods. Indians indifferent regions burned these wetlands periodically(Anderson 2009; Day 1953; Patterson and Sassaman1988). The primary role of fire was to maintain openhabitats such as prairies, bogs, and forest clearings.Forest encroachment would have reduced sunlightthat the bog Labrador tea plants needed, increasedcompetition for nutrients, and made the plants moredifficult to get to and harvest. Burning also had adirectly beneficial effect on individual plants,maintaining vigor and stimulating new growth. BogLabrador tea is fire tolerant (Mallik and Mallik 1997), responding to low-intensity fires byresprouting from stems. If completely top-killed, theplant regenerates from root crowns and rhizomes(Calmes and Zasada 1982; Parminter 1984).Regeneration is typically rapid (Scotter 1972). Indiantea can even survive severe fires because therhizomes lie as deep as 50 cm in the soil (Flinn andWein 1977). The young leaves can become infectedwith a fungal disease, spruce needle rust, leavingpowdery orange spores (Hiratsuka et al. 1995).Kate McCarty, a non-Indian woman married to aMakah, described bog Labrador tea on the Ts’oo-yuhs prairie as producing better crops after theMakah burned it: “The Labrador tea can just keepgrowing and growing and growing until it gets realleggy. And all that you have is just a few little leaveson top. But after it’s been burned then it starts allover again. It’s just like pinching flowers off of thechrysanthemum to make them bush out” (KateMcCarty pers. comm.).
“People burned in the cranberry marsh to promote abetter crop of cranberries and Indian tea. Our peoplehave been drinking the Indian tea for thousands of years. But you can never drink enough. A lot of people like the Indian tea. Another reason to burnwas to keep the brush and trees from growing.Otherwise it would be a loss. The marsh behind theschool [on the Makah Reservation], unless someoneburns it, it will be history. It is being encroached bytrees and shrubs. Unless they’re cut down andburned, they’ll eventually take over the cranberrymarsh just like at Ozette” (Pat Boachup, Makah, pers.comm.).
Please contact your local agricultural extensionspecialist or county weed specialist to learn whatworks best in your area and how to use it safely.Always read label and safety instructions for eachcontrol method. Trade names and control measuresappear in this document only to provide specificinformation. USDA NRCS does not guarantee orwarranty the products and control methods named,and other products may be equally effective.
Cultivars, Improved, and Selected Materials (andarea of origin)
This plant is available from native plant nurseries(Damrosch 2008).
Anderson, M.K. 2009. The Ozette Prairies of Olympic National Park: their former indigenoususes and management. Final report to OlympicNational Park. Winter 2009.Buttree, J.M. 1932. Foods of the Omaha andChippewa. The Totem Board 11(11):443-454. TheWoodcraft League of America, Inc. Santa Fe.University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque.Calmes, M.A. and J.C. Zasada. 1982. Somereproductive traits of four shrub species in theblack spruce forest type of Alaska. Canadian Field-Naturalist 96(1):35-40.Damrosch, B. 2008. The Garden Primer: The