Labrador Tea - (Ledum groenlandicum)


Common Name: Labrador Tea
Scientific Name: Ledum groenlandicum
Family: Heath (Ericaceae)
Other Common Names: Hudson Bay tea, muskeg tea
Flower Color: White
Habitat: Bogs, wetlands
General Bloom Dates: May - June

General Characteristics:
The white flowers of the Labrador Tea are 5 petaled and found in terminal clusters. The leaves of the Labrador Tea are evergreen, long, and leathery, just as in other members of the Heath family. The leaves are also orange and wooly beneath, and have inward rolled sides. This small shrub attains heights of 1'- 3' and is found in Northern bogs.

Plant Lore:
As the name implies this plant is often used as a tea. There is a mild fruity taste to the drink, although many would say you should sweeten the drink with honey or maple sugar to make it palatable. A word of caution to fellow tea drinkers; Labrador Tea contains small amounts of the toxin andromedotoxin which can cause headaches, cramps, paralysis and intestinal problems if too much is consumed. As a general rule, this tea should be consumed in moderation. One cup is often considered the safe amount.
This plant is thought to keep mice out of corn cribs and possibly out of a persons house. The leaves were often stored in corn cribs to keep mice from eating the corn.

Modern Uses of this Plant:
Big mining companies have experimented with finding gold in the stems of the Labrador Tea plant. Labrador Tea is said to concentrate gold in the stems of the plant that it absorbed from the surrounding soil on the Canadian Shield. If there is a quantity of gold in the surrounding area this plant will concentrate the compound. Mining companies concentrate the minerals found in the woody stem of the plant and run a neutron activation analysis looking for concentrations greater than 2.5 part per billion. When this is found they continue further exploration to see if gold deposits exist in a mine-able quantity.