|Joanne Kline. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Wisconsin State Herbarium. www.botany.wisc.edu/wisflora|
Infrataxa: Based primarily on distribution, plant size, and pedicel length, some systematists recognize 3 varieties of bog rosemary [56,60,69]:
Andromeda polifolia L. var. jamesiana (Lepage) Boivin
Andromeda polifolia L. var. glaucophylla (Link) DC
Andromeda polifolia L. var. polifolia
The taxonomy of bog rosemary has been amended in recent years. A. glaucophylla and A. polifolia were once considered distinct species, and A. polifolia var. jamesiana was once considered intermediate between the 2 species [52,56,89].
Within this review, unless otherwise specified, "bog rosemary" refers to the species as a whole.SYNONYMS:
Infrataxa: A. polifolia var. polifolia has a distribution similar to that of A. polifolia, but does not occur on the northern islands of Nunavut. In the US it occurs in New York and Washington and is rarely found in Idaho and Connecticut .
A. polifolia var. glaucophylla is distributed from Greenland west to Nunavut and Saskatchewan, south to New Jersey and West Virginia, and west to Illinois and Minnesota . This variety historically occurred in Ohio, but may have been extirpated [2,100].
A. polifolia var. jamesiana only occurs in limited locations in Quebec, Ontario, and Nunavut .ECOSYSTEMS :
sheathed cottonsedge (Eriophorum vaginatum var. spissum and E. vaginatum) tussock-dwarf shrub heath subtype, tussock cottonsedge-spruce muskeg sedge-wideleaf polargrass (Eriophorum vaginatum var. spissum-Carex lugens-Arctagrostis latifolia)-dwarf shrub heath subtype, and the Carex (C. spp.)-dwarf shrub heath subtype in the Umiat region 
on poorly drained hummocks within the Richardson's willow-tealeaf willow (Salix richardsonii-S. pulchra) community in western AK
bog rosemary-sweetgale-dwarf birch (Myrica gale-Betula nana ssp. exilis)-sphagnum upland bog community 
Bigelow's sedge-marsh Labrador tea-blueberry-black crowberry (C. bigelowii-Ledum decumbens-Vaccinium spp.-Empetrum nigrum)-bog rosemary-dwarf birch-sphagnum vegetation type in bogs of Mount McKinley National Park 
sedge (Carex nigricans and C. limosa)-sphagnum bogs in the Prince William Sound region 
black spruce stands on north-facing slopes and in wet depressions 
ericaceous heath bogs and tamarack thicket bogs in the Platt River Plains of Lake Michigan 
leatherleaf-bog rosemary shrub mats and sedge (Carex spp.)-heath bogs on Isle Royale, Lake Superior 
Red Lake Peatland: bog birch (B. pumila var. glandulifera)-leatherleaf-bog rosemary-small cranberry community in string hummocks and open bogs 
aulacomnium moss (Aulacomnium palustre)-bog rosemary bog vegetation type in central MN 
a shrub association in a tamarack-black spruce community in northern MN
bog Labrador tea-leatherleaf-Vaccinium (V. myrtilloides and V. angustifolium) association in northern MN 
Mishaps Bog: sphagnum mats dominated by leatherleaf, bog rosemary, and bog laurel 
bog rosemary-aulacomnium-palustriella (Palustriella commutatum)-sphagnum (Sphagnum laricinum and S. subsecundium) community in poorly drained depressions in the Sandhills area of central AB 
sphagnum-bog rosemary-cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus) association in bogs in kettle hole depressions 
peatland communities 
ericaceous shrub communities in sphagnum hummocks and "lawns" in coastal peatlands 
bog rosemary-black spruce community on sphagnum peat mounds in the Hudson Bay lowlands 
leatherleaf-resin birch (B. glandulosa)-bog rosemary muskegs in the Hudson Bay lowlands 
Leech Lake Peatland, Labrador: on the margins of patterned fens dominated by sphagnum mosses 
Bog rosemary is a native, low-growing, spreading, evergreen shrub with a height range of 2 inches to 2.6 feet (5-80 cm). A. polifolia var. glaucophylla is the larger variety, with a height range of 1 to 2.6 feet (30-80 cm). A. polifolia var. polifolia tends to be smaller, with a height range of 2 to 16 inches (5-40 cm), but is typically less than 8 inches (30 cm) tall [15,58,76,89,96]. The leaves are leathery and glaucous underneath . The inflorescence is a nodding, terminal umbel bearing 1 to 4 urn-shaped, perfect flowers. The fruit is a 5-valved, spherical, many-seeded, dry capsule 0.1 to 0.2 inch (3-6 mm) in diameter [58,96]. Bog rosemary produces creeping horizontal rhizomes [53,58]. In southern New Brunswick, rhizomes of A. polifolia var. glaucophylla were found at a depth of 7.5 inches (19 cm) in a treeless bog and 14.6 inches (37 cm) in a black spruce bog [33,35]. Roots of bog rosemary may reach a depth of 17.7 inches (45 cm), and 75% to 98% of the plant biomass is below ground. There is no measurable fine root growth below 3.9 to 5.9 inches (10-15 cm). Fine roots comprise about 24% of the total belowground biomass . A. polifolia var. polifolia is often prostrate with "freely rooting" stems that produce roots along the nodes [89,96]
Flooding―Bog rosemary has high flood tolerance and is typically found growing in bogs and other wet sites [53,58,94,100].
Pollination: Bog rosemary can be self pollinated and is considered highly self fertile . Self pollination readily takes place in bog rosemary when the flowers are newly expanded because the stigma is situated quite close to the anthers, and pollen grains are trapped by hairs lining the corolla [53,80]. Flowers are also pollinated by bumblebees, honeybees, syrphid flies, and butterflies [3,53,79,80]. Some research suggests that insect pollination is very important, or even required, for seed production in bog rosemary. In a Swedish pollination study, Froborg  reported that self-pollinated flowers did not differ from open-pollinated flowers in the percent of flowers producing fruit, but the percent of seed set per ovule was significantly lower (P<0.001) with self pollination. In a pollination study of A. polifolia var. glaucophylla in Ontario, Reader  found that the number of seed bearing fruits was reduced significantly (P<0.01) when insects were prevented from visiting flowers by mesh bags. The number of fruits producing seeds ranged from 0 to 1.5 on bagged plants, and 26.1 to 40.8 for nonbagged plants.
Breeding system: Bog rosemary is monoecious .
Seed production: Bog rosemary produces 1 to 44 seeds per fruit, of which 10 to 20 are usually viable .
Seed dispersal: Campbell and others  suggest that the potential for wind dispersal of bog rosemary seeds is low because the seeds are enclosed in fleshy fruits. However, Jacquemart  writes "the small seeds of bog rosemary are presumably wind dispersed". Perhaps she is speaking to seed dispersal after the fruit has worn away. The fruits have a potential for animal dispersal ; however, it is unlikely that the bitter fruits would be eaten in quantity . The fruits of A. polifolia var. glaucophylla have been found to float for 72 hours, indicating a potential for water dispersal of seed .
Seed banking: In a seed banking study of a bog in Finland, viable seeds of bog rosemary were found in the soil surface layer and at a depth of 15.7 to 19.7 inches (40-50 cm) . According to Jacquemart , bog rosemary is often "under-represented" in the seed banks of sphagnum bogs in the British Isles.
Germination: Bog rosemary seeds require cold stratification to germinate . The seeds must stay in the soil for at least 1 year before they can germinate. The best available information on seed germination comes from a Belgian greenhouse study. The average germination time was 13 days. Seeds collected in October germinated at a rate of 66.5% at 77 °F (25 °C) and 16 hours of light. Germination rate was only 24% to 27% in shade or darkness. The study found that cold temperatures reduced bog rosemary seed germination. Germination rates reached 72% at 86 °F (30 °C), but dropped to 27% at 59 °F (15 °C). Germination period was 8 days at 86 °F (30 °C) and 34 days at 59 °F (15 °C). Chilling treatments in which the seeds were immersed in moist sand at 39.2 °F (4 °C) did not increase the germination rate, but germination was faster (11 versus 13 days). Two months of dry storage at -4 °F (-20 °C) was damaging to seeds and resulted in a 4% germination rate . In the first few years following a fire, spring and summer soil temperatures may increase due to the removal of surface litter and overstory vegetation that once shaded the soil surface. According to the results of the germination study, these warmer soil temperatures may favor the germination of banked bog rosemary seeds.
Seedling establishment/growth: Seedling development in bog rosemary is relatively slow. In greenhouse studies, 11 days are required after radicle emergence before the first 2 cotyledons appear. The first 2 foliage leaves appear 18 to 28 days after radicle emergence. After 6 weeks the seedling consists of a slender vertical shoot, 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1-2 cm) long .
Froborg  states that seedling establishment of bog rosemary and other clonal plants is "infrequent, but important, in disturbed areas". When dispersal and new establishment of bog rosemary occurs, it is presumably by seed [30,53].
On a milled peatland in Quebec, 6 to 20 years after harvesting, bog rosemary had failed to recolonize the disturbed area although it was present in the adjacent undisturbed peatlands. This may have been the result of establishment failure or failure to disperse . Additional information on seedling establishment is lacking, and more studies are needed.
Vegetative regeneration: Bog rosemary sprouts readily from rhizomes that produce roots and aboveground shoots. Shoots develop from the terminal ends of the rhizomes . The creeping stems of A. polifolia var. polifolia commonly root along the nodes , but there is no discussion in the literature regarding stem rooting as a mode of regeneration following disturbance.SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Bog rosemary commonly thrives in ombrotrophic peat bogs dominated by sphagnum mosses. In ombrotrophic bogs, all water and nutrients are the result of direct precipitation; neither ground water nor surface runoff reach the bog surface [12,53,105]. These bogs are always acidic, available nutrients are in short supply, and they stay cold beneath the surface peat layers. These conditions retard decay and result in thick peat accumulation [82,86]. In Alaska bog rosemary was found growing in an ombrotrophic bog in which the peat layer was more than 26.3 feet (8 m) thick . Bog rosemary does not require acidic conditions; it reportedly can grow in soils with a pH range of 3.0 to 7.9 . However, its ability to tolerate both the acid and high water levels allows it to thrive in bog systems .
In the northern Lake States, A. polifolia var. glaucophylla is found growing in both ombrotrophic bogs and calcium- and magnesium-rich minerotrophic bogs . It is considered an indicator of "weakly minerotrophic waters" in which the pH values tend to range from 5.8 to 7.0 .
In northern Manitoba bog rosemary grows in boreal permafrost peatlands. These permafrost plateaus float about 3.3 to 6.6 feet (1-2 m) above the regional water table because of the volumetric expansion and buoyancy of frozen peat .
Bog rosemary is able to grow in dry soils and can persist in drained bogs long after the sphagnum mosses have disappeared [53,70].
In the central Brooks Range, Alaska, bog rosemary is only found growing on soils of noncalcareous origin .
Bog rosemary is not extremely cold tolerant when actively growing. Freezing injury occurs whenever temperatures fall below the freezing point destroying current shoot tips and flowers. Frost damage induces the growth of dormant buds on the current shoots, particularly those near the shoot tips, and total shoot height after slight frost damage may exceed that of undamaged shoots .
Bog rosemary can be found at a wide range of elevations, growing at nearly sea level to subalpine elevations [62,76]. The elevation range for bog rosemary in the Adirondacks is listed as 1,550 to 1,730 feet (472-527 m), but the actual range could probably be extended in both directions . In British Columbia, bog rosemary occurs from 20 to 5,561 feet (6-1,695 m) . No other specific elevation ranges for bog rosemary were found in the literature.SUCCESSIONAL STATUS:
The bog stage is very long lived and extremely stable in the absence of disturbance . Stability of the successional stages is directly related to water levels, which are dependent on the relationship between precipitation and evapotransporation and on surface or subsurface water movements . If water levels remain stable, the sphagnum-shrub bog may persist indefinitely due to low decomposition and mineralization rates . Periodic flooding aids in the perpetuation of bog flora . A flood event that results in prolonged raising of the water level destroys bog vegetation and may return the system to open water . Prolonged dry periods result in a lowering of the water table and a more rapid succession toward bog forest . When bogs are drained, the peat mats dry very slowly. The Sphagnum mosses die as the mats dries out, but the shrubs, such as bog rosemary, may flourish for decades [70,71]. The draining of peatlands in Ohio forced a succession toward a northern white-cedar (Thuja occidentalis) swamp forest .
Fire can maintain bogs in early stages of succession, i.e., sedge meadows or shrub bogs [24,41,61,99], because often it only burns the aboveground plant parts, allowing the existing shrubs to sprout . Bog rosemary is likely to survive low severity fires in bogs because of the depth of its rhizomes, and it is often one of the first plants to colonize burned bogs [33,41]. Under wet conditions fires in a young bog forest may kill the trees yet leave the undergrowth virtually untouched because the peat is water saturated. The result of such a burn is an immediate return to the sphagnum-shrub bog [62,64]. Tamarack and black spruce establish from banked seed and any cones that escaped destruction . During prolonged periods of dry conditions, the bog may dry out enough to burn, and a considerable volume of the surface peat and vegetation may by consumed. Fire that burns deeply into the peat kills underground plant parts and banked seeds [9,16]. The loss of peat volume results in raised water levels, which kill surviving trees and less flood-tolerant species, so the site regresses toward the more hydrophytic communities [64,86,90].
A successional pathway following fire in a peat plateau is described in a study conducted in the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories. Vegetation data were collected in areas of the plateau that had last burned 4, 53, and 92 years before. Four years after a fire, bog rosemary was one of the most represented plant species, at 14% cover. After 50 years bog rosemary represented 8% of the plant cover, sphagnum hummocks were formed, Labrador teas were prominent, and the reindeer lichens were becoming abundant. After 90 years, bog rosemary represented 4% of the plant cover, black spruce trees 16 to 32 feet tall (5-10 m) were scattered throughout the area, the sphagnum hummocks were dominated by marsh Labrador tea, and reindeer lichens comprised a large percentage of the total plant cover .SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
Anthesis periods for bog rosemary
|State, province, or region||Flowering months|
|AK||June to early July |
|IL||May to June |
|WV||May to July |
|Adirondacks||late May to mid-June [15,60]|
|Northeastern US and Canada||late May to mid-June |
|BC||May to Aug |
|ON||May to June |
Fire regimes: Fires in peat bog lands where bog rosemary commonly occurs tend to burn in irregular patterns with varying degrees of severity , affected by the spatial variability in species composition and site hydrology . Bogs burn only in extremely dry years and typically originate in adjacent upland forest sites . Fires can be severe enough to kill aboveground plant parts, and yet the high surface temperatures in organic soils are not transmitted deeply into the soil profile because of the insulating effects of the peat. Early revegetation in burned bogs can be rapid because plants that existed prior to the fire sprout from roots and rhizomes [35,72]. On rare occasions, in extremely dry conditions, peat fires can burn for weeks or months with a high degree of smoldering . The depth of the burn may vary from an inch to several feet, and a large volume of peat can be consumed .
Peat plateaus form in continental northern climates of severe winters and low snowfall when the peat body lifts as a result of freeze and thaw cycles within the waterlogged core. These plateaus are subject to recurrent burning because their surfaces are high and well-drained relative to surrounding wetlands. They also carry an abundance of flammable fuel: black spruce with branches close to the ground, resinous ericaceous shrubs, and feathermosses (Hylocomium spp.) and lichens that dry quickly after rain. Peat plateaus situated on the lowest parts of the alluvial flats burn rarely compared to those at higher elevations. On a peat plateau in the Mackenzie Valley, Northwest Territories, the fire return interval was estimated at 35 to 170 years .
Bog rosemary persists in the early stages of tamarack, black spruce, and jack pine forest succession in wet, open areas that usually have many of the same site characteristics as conifer bogs. Conifer bogs are generally not as prone to fire as other forest stand types because they tend to occupy depressions and lowlands and are wetter. The high water table, green understory, and thick, wet organic layer render conifer bogs unsusceptible to fire except in severe drought years. Conifer bogs are often spared from large, high severity forest fires that occur in adjacent uplands, leaving unburned pockets of trees that become important seed sources for the regeneration of burned forest [28,73]. Conifer bog fires occur during prolonged droughts conditions when the water table drops and the forest floor becomes thoroughly desiccated. Ignition typically occurs on adjacent uplands in late July to September during rainless thunderstorms. Under these conditions, with sufficient winds, the trees in conifer bogs can sustain major crown fires . Heinselman  estimated the fire return interval for large forested spruce bogs in Minnesota was 100 to 150 years. Fuel loadings in conifer bogs are highly variable because of the multiple combinations of species found in this forest type .
The arctic sheathed cottonsedge tussock communities in which bog rosemary occurs have relatively small quantities of flammable vegetation, and the peaty substrate is wet even in years of low precipitation. Burns can be severe enough to kill all aboveground plant parts, but belowground parts are well protected by tussock bases, moss mats, and peat. Following these low-severity fires, new growth primarily comes from plant stocks protected by the organic surface, and new species rarely invade the burned area [72,103]. Arctic sheathed cottonsedge tussock communities occur on permafrost-influenced terrain, and fires on these sites can cause changes in soil properties. Surface fires rarely affect the depth of the active layer; however, removal of the vegetation and some or all of the organic layer can cause the depth of the active layer to increase. Soils tend to become drier and warmer due to the removal of the insulative moss mat, the removal of shading by vegetation, and reduced albedo of the burned surface. When the organic horizons survive the fire, the amount of postfire thaw is minimized [9,93,103].
The following table provides fire-return intervals for plant communities and ecosystems where bog rosemary is important. For further information, see the FEIS review of the dominant species listed below. This list may not be inclusive for all plant communities in which bog rosemary occurs. If you are interested in plant communities or ecosystems that are not listed below, see the complete FEIS Fire Regime Table.
Fire-return intervals for plant communities with bog rosemary
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|tamarack||Larix laricina||35-200 |
|Great Lakes spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35 to >200|
|black spruce||Picea mariana||35-200|
|conifer bog*||Picea mariana-Larix laricina||35-200 |
|jack pine||Pinus banksiana||<35 to 200 [18,28]|
Because A. polifolia var. polifolia
produces rooting stems, it may be possible that prostrate branches protected by
organic duff during a light surface fire will survive and take root. However, no
information was found in the literature to support this possibility and more
studies are needed.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
Moisture content and amount of organic material affect heat penetration into soil which, in turn, affects the survival of rhizomes and roots. Dry soils get hotter in the upper layers than do wet soils, but moisture increases the heat penetration deeper into the soil profile. Dry soils may heat up to lethal temperatures more quickly and retain high heat longer than wet soils. In one laboratory simulation using dried soils from a black spruce stand, fire residing in one spot on the surface for 70 minutes produced temperatures hot enough to kill plants parts at a depth of 3.5 inches (9 cm). Bog rosemary is well adapted to survive this level of heat intensity by the depth of its underground parts, with its roots 17.7 inches (45 cm) deep  and rhizomes 7.5 to 14.6 inches (19-37 cm) deep . High surface temperatures are not transmitted deeply into the profile of organic soils because of the insulating effects of the organic matter .
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Bog rosemary sprouts from rhizomes following fire [33,35,41,53]. Reestablishment of bog rosemary after fire could possibly include banked seeds  or seeds dispersed to the site by wind, water or animals . However, seedling establishment by bog rosemary in nature is reportedly rare [14,53], and no reports were found in the literature indicating seedling establishment following fire.
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Spring and fall burns appear to favor bog rosemary regeneration. A propane torch was used to simulate a low severity surface fire in an open tamarack bog forest in the Acadian Forest Region, New Brunswick. Plots were burned in May, July, or September, and a temperature of 131 °F (55 °C) was reached for at least 5 minutes to a soil depth of 0.8 inch (2 cm). Revegetation data were collected 1, 3, and 5 months after fire. Bog rosemary showed "good regrowth" from rhizomes at 3 and 5 months after fire. There was also an increase in stem density of bog rosemary relative to prefire measurements: the relative abundance of bog rosemary was negligible before fire, 36% at 3 postfire months on the May-burned plots, and 34% at 3 postfire months on the September-burned plots. No regrowth was observed in the July-burned plots, presumably because plant photosynthates had been used for the production of new shoots and leaves and reserves had not yet been replenished [34,35].
High-severity summer peat fires may reduce bog rosemary populations in some bogs. In a vegetation study in a peat bog in Michigan's Upper Peninsula 3 years after a summer wildfire, bog rosemary was largely absent from burned plots but abundant in unburned plots .
Recurring fire may be detrimental to bog rosemary and other ericaceous shrubs. A vegetation study was carried out in the Powell-Flambeau Marsh in north-central Wisconsin. All burned plots in the study had been subjected to an average of 1.7 wildfires between 1928 and 1948. Additionally, all plots were subjected to a prescribed burn between 1957 and 1961. Vegetation was sampled the first or second year following prescribed burning, and the ericaceous shrubs decreased in frequency on the burned plots versus unburned controls :
Average frequency of ericaceous shrubs on control and burned plots
Average % Plant Frequency
|Control Plots||Burned Plots|
|bog Labrador tea||19.6||<1|
Palatability/nutritional value: Leaves of bog rosemary collected in the spring from the crops of capercaille in Lapland had a nutritive content of 11.6% crude protein and 4.2% crude fat .
Cover value: Bog communities in the northern US where bog rosemary occurs are commonly inhabited by a variety of birds, particularly geese, ducks, and sharp-tailed grouse . Many song birds including the common snipe, red-winged blackbird, eastern kingbird, swamp sparrow, and common yellowthroat are frequent inhabitants of bog communities [25,31].VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES:
Cultivated varieties of bog rosemary have been developed, including 'Blue Ice', 'Grandiflora Compacta', and 'Nana' .
The andromedotoxin found in all parts of bog rosemary plants is poisonous to humans, causing low blood pressure, breathing problems, dizziness, vomiting, and diarrhea .OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS:
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