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Myrica gale - L.

Common Name Bog Myrtle, Sweetgale
Family Myricaceae
USDA hardiness 2-9
Known Hazards This plant is an abortifacient and so should not be eaten by pregnant women[4, 172].
Habitats Bogs, marshes, fens and wet heathland in acid soils but plants are occasionally found in calcareous fens[5, 17, 186].
Range Western Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia to Portugal, east to N.W. Russia. N. America.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (4 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Myrica gale Bog Myrtle, Sweetgale

Myrica gale Bog Myrtle, Sweetgale


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Myrica gale is a deciduous Shrub growing to 2 m (6ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 1. It is in flower from March to May, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
It can fix Nitrogen.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


M. palustris. Gale palustris.

Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Bog Garden;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

The aromatic fruits and leaves are used either fresh or dried to flavour soups, stews etc[2, 4, 62, 100, 183]. They are sometimes put in beer and ale to improve the flavour and increase foaming[183]. The fruit is about 3mm in diameter with a single large seed[200]. The dried leaves make a delicate and palatable tea[4, 62, 172, 183].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Abortifacient  Antipruritic  Aromatic  Astringent  Emmenagogue  Parasiticide  Stomachic

The leaves are abortifacient, aromatic, astringent, emmenagogue and stomachic[4, 46, 172, 238]. The leaves are normally used as a tea, but they do contain a poisonous aromatic oil, so some caution is advised in their use[4].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Dye  Essential  Parasiticide  Repellent  Tannin  Wax

A wax covering on the fruit and leaves is extracted by scalding the fruit with boiling water and immersing them for a few minutes, the wax floats to the surface and is then skimmed off. The fruit is then boiled in water to extract the wax from the pulp and once more the wax is skimmed off. It is then strained through a muslin cloth and can be used to make aromatic candles[4, 6, 245]. These candles diffuse a delightful odour when burnt[245]. Unfortunately this species does not produce enough wax to make it commercially viable[115]. A yellow dye is obtained from the stem tips[66, 115, 172]. Brown according to another report[257]. A yellow dye is obtained from the seeds[257]. The bark contains tannin and can be gathered in the autumn and used as a yellow dye[4]. The plant repels moths and insects in general[66, 106, 115]. The fragrant leaves are used[4, 100]. A strong decoction of the leaves can be used as a parasiticide to kill external body parasites[172]. A fragrant essential oil is obtained from the fruits[115]. Nitrogen Fixer.

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Food Forest  Nitrogen Fixer  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

There is some difference of opinion about the needs of this plant. Most reports say that it prefers a moist soil and that it grows well in an open position in a well-drained soil in sun or light shade. Most reports also say that it prefers or even requires a lime-free loamy or peaty soil[1, 200] but another report says that it succeeds in any ordinary garden soil[11]. In the wild it is usually found in soils with a pH between 3.5 and 6, but it is also sometimes found in fens with a pH as high as 7.5[186]. A suckering shrub, when well sited it can form thickets[186]. This species has a symbiotic relationship with certain soil micro-organisms, these form nodules on the roots of the plants and fix atmospheric nitrogen. Some of this nitrogen is utilized by the growing plant but some can also be used by other plants growing nearby[200].This habit also allows the plant to succeed in water-logged soils[186]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required. This plant is occasionally monoecious and also can change sex from year to year[50]. Flowers are produced mainly on one-year old wood[4]. All parts of the plant are pleasantly aromatic[186]. A good food plant for the caterpillars of many species of butterflies[30]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 6 through 1. (Plant Hardiness Zones show how well plants withstand cold winter temperatures. Plant Heat Zones show when plants would start suffering from the heat. The Plant Heat Zone map is based on the number of "heat days" experienced in a given area where the temperature climbs to over 86 degrees F (30°C). At this temperature, many plants begin to suffer physiological damage. Heat Zones range from 1 (no heat days) to 12 (210 or more heat days). For example Heat Zone. 11-1 indicates that the plant is heat tolerant in zones 11 through 1.) For polyculture design as well as the above-ground architecture (form - tree, shrub etc. and size shown above) information on the habit and root pattern is also useful and given here if available. The plant growth habit is multistemmed with multiple stems from the crown [1-2]. The root pattern is stoloniferous rooting from creeping stems above the ground [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. Barely cover the seed and keep it moist. Stored seed germinates more freely if given a 3 month cold stratification and then sown in a cold frame. Germination is usually good[78]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow on in the cold frame for the first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer[K]. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 8cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Pot up and overwinter in a cold frame. Fair to good percentage[78]. Cuttings of mature wood in November/December in a frame. Layering in spring[200]. Division of suckers in the dormant season. Plant them out direct into their permanent positions.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

TEMPERATE ASIA: Habarovskij kraj, Hokkaidô, Honshu (east), Japan, Kamcatskij kraj, Korea, North, Primorye, Sakhalin,Russian Federation. NORTHERN AMERICA: Canada, Northwest Territories (south), Yukon, Québec, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Manitoba, British Columbia, United States, Alaska, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey (north), New York, Ohio (Seneca Co. (extirpated?)), Pennsylvania (northeast), Rhode Island, Vermont, Minnesota (north), Wisconsin, Oregon (northwest), Washington (west), North Carolina (west), EUROPE: Denmark, Finland, United Kingdom (U.K.), Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Germany (north), Netherlands, Poland (north & west), Russian Federation-European part, European part (northwest), Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, Spain (west), France (north & west), Portugal (west),

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

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Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

Satchiko   Sun Sep 30 2007

i'm just wondering if it would be any good stopping mosquitoes?i live in Tokyo and from May till november I get bitten alive everytime I go out on the balcony

Gordon Lees   Fri Jun 23 2006

Having returned from Scotland full of midge bites.And watching breakfast on BBC when Bog Myrtle was mentioned as a deterent used by Crofters to the dreaded fly followed a link to this page which is very informative is thank you

mike iveson   Wed Jul 5 2006

As a person particularly bothered by midges I am interested in growing my own bog myrtle. Are you aware of a source from which I can obtain seeds?

jojo   Sun Jul 23 2006

Super, i love this plant, since I was little I've loved the smell of it. I've always been bothered by midges, but I first learned now that it would help to rub my skin with this amazing plant. I've now ordered the spray from stopbite.com . I hope it will help. I've never liked using deterents containing DEET.

stopbite.com They sell the Bog Myrtle deterent

myrica gale hinich   Fri Sep 8 2006

hello, my name is myrica gale... i was named after this plant, and i feel very fortuate to be named after such a great plant. It is very interesting to learn about its uses and past uses on this site.

Rich   Mon Feb 12 2007

Independent article on Bog Myrtle discusses the commercial use of the plant in Scotland as an esential oil.

Chef MyKLove   Mon Feb 19 2007

have used it as a calming tea recently and also found it made me a little woozy when i smoked it. wondering if anyone knows of any traditional smoking uses for the plant. it smells good when burned!

Louis Galipeau   Tue Feb 27 2007

You can also use this plant to aid in dream recall. I've used it with much success. It was thanks to the Algonquin Tea Co. that I was fortunate enough to make this discovery. You can visit their page about the Myrica Gale: http://www.algonquintea.com/01_teas_01.html

AkamaiFred   Wed Aug 29 2007

I'm looking for a source to buy the plant to grow for ale and tea here in California. Any information would be appreciated.

Joss   Wed Jul 2 2008

I had a go Brewing Gruit Ale with Bog Myrtle allong with Yarrow and Rosemary, It tasted v.good, a lot more bittersweet and fuller/heavier than ale brewed with hops. You allso get drunk a lot faster!Only made a one gallon batch though. Gona be a lot bigger this year.If Anyone wants to get hold of some seeds just let me know [email protected], there not in season for a while yet but I can keep an eye out for them and I'l stick them on Ebay if anyones intersted.

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