Winter Shrub ID: Sweetgale

Photo of Sweetgale

As I mentioned last week, Sweetgale (Myrica gale) is one of the few New England shrubs with catkins on white season twigs. The twigs of this short shrub are dark purple near the tips, typically red to brown to yellowish further down the stem, and covered with tiny white speckles. The buds and unopened catkins consist of overlapping dark scales with contrasting light tips, making for a sharp look. Some twigs may have persisting dried leaves; note how the leaves are toothed only near their tips. Fruit clusters resemble spiky cones. Scratch and sniff Sweetgale to experience a pleasant aroma.

This native shrub grows on the edges of ponds and streams, and in bogs and other wetlands. These photos were taken this morning along the edge of Etherington Pond in Biddeford, ME. To learn more about Sweetgale, visit Go Botany. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

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