Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum
and Ledum palustre
), also called Hudson's Bay or Indian tea, shrubs of the heath family (Ericaceae). They grow up to 2 m high in wet, acidic SOIL
throughout much of northern Canada and in PEAT
bogs to the south. Some 4 species of genus Ledum
exist worldwide, 3 in Canada. The third, L. glandulosum
(trapper's tea), is sometimes used for tea. The genus is closely related to Rhododendron, and contains compounds that can be harmful in high concentrations. Also, there are poisonous look-alikes such as swamp laurel (Kalmia
spp), which has pink flowers.
Labrador tea leaves are elliptical, up to 6 cm long, with revolute (backward-rolled) margins and dense, whitish to rust-coloured fuzz on the lower surfaces. The flowers are white and clustered.
The aromatic young twigs, leaves and flowers have been used, fresh or dried, as "tea" by NATIVE PEOPLES
and settlers. Tea should be weak; a small handful of leaves steeped in boiling water for 5 min yields a pleasant beverage. See also PLANTS, NATIVE USES
NANCY J. TURNER
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