As Rhodora and Bog American-laurel finish blooming and set fruit, Labrador-tea (Rhododendron groenlandicum) celebrates another turn of the seasons with bright white flower clusters. This bog-loving shrub's leaves, which have noticeably hairy undersides, are said to make a delicious cup of tea, but I've yet to find a large enough population to justify harvesting.
Labrador-tea is easily located and identified when flowering (the rest of the year this low shrub is easy to overlook). Using Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, begin by answering the basic questions to obtain a 3-digit code.
Flower type: 5 Regular Parts (5--)
Plant type: Shrub (55-)
Leaf type: Leaves Entire (552)
The key then asks if the leaves are evergreen (yes) and under 1" long (no). Bog American-laurel shares these characteristics. The key then points to page 292, where you can find this native member of the Heath (Ericaceae) family. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)