Subshrub ID: Trailing-arbutus

Photo of Trailing-arbutus flowering

With egg-shaped, evergreen leaves and distinctly hairy, woody stems, Trailing-arbutus (Epigaea repens), a member of the Heath (Ericaceae) family, is a short subshrub who is recognizeable year-round. In early spring, flower buds that have been present for months at the tips of twigs begin to swell and open, revealing fragrant, white or pink flowers (you may need to bring your nose close to a cluster of flowers to notice their sweet scent).

Photo of Trailing-arbutus flowers and flower buds

Trailing-arbutus is the provincial flower of Nova Scotia and the state flower of Massachusetts. Another common name is Mayflower, which apparently refers not to the month of the year, but rather to the famous ship associated with Plymouth Colony pilgrims.

Photo of Trailing-arbutus stem

While this plant's flowers are a familiar and welcome sight to me, I've yet to see the fruit of this creeping plant. Last summer, Mary Holland shared a photo of some developing fruit on her Naturally Curious blog. With the help of her search image, I figure it's just a matter of time before I discover some fruit for myself.

Photo of Trailing-arbutus patch

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