Labrador Tea (Ledum groenlandicum and Ledum palustre), also called Hudson's Bay or Indian tea, shrubs of the heath family (Ericaceae).
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 Aboriginal People and settlers. Tea should be weak; a small handful of leaves steeped in boiling water for 5 min yields a pleasant beverage. See also Aboriginal Uses of Plants.