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Epigaea repens - L.

Common Name Mayflower, Trailing arbutus, Ground Laurel
Family Ericaceae
USDA hardiness 3-8
Known Hazards None known
Habitats Damp mossy banks in sandy and peaty woods and clearings[43, 268], usually under pine trees[4].
Range Eastern N. America - Newfoundland to Florida and west to Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.
Edibility Rating    (2 of 5)
Other Uses    (2 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade
Epigaea repens Mayflower, Trailing arbutus, Ground Laurel

Epigaea repens Mayflower, Trailing arbutus, Ground Laurel


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Bloom Color: Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring. Form: Spreading or horizontal.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Epigaea repens is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.1 m (0ft 4in) by 0.3 m (1ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from April to May. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid and neutral soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Plant Habitats

Woodland Garden Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Ground Cover;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Flowers
Edible Uses:

Flowers - raw. Fragrant, with a spicy slightly acid flavour[105], they are eaten as a wayside nibble or are added to salads[183]. Thirst quenching[177].

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.
Astringent  Diuretic  Tonic  Urinary

Mayflower is rarely used medicinally, even in folk medicine, though it is a strong urinary antiseptic and is one of the most effective remedies for cystitis, urethritis, prostatitis, bladder stones and particularly acute catarrhal cystitis[268]. The leaves are astringent, diuretic and tonic[46, 61]. An infusion is made from the dried leaves, or a tincture from the fresh leaves[4]. A tea made from the leaves is used in the treatment of kidney disorders, stomach aches, bladder disorders etc[222]. It is of special value when the urine contains blood or pus[4]. Use with caution, the plant contains arbutin and, although this is an effective urinary disinfectant, it hydrolyzes to hydroquinone which is toxic[222]. The leaves can be used fresh or can be harvested in the summer and dried for later use[238, 268].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

The Bookshop: Edible Plant Books

Our Latest books on Perennial Plants For Food Forests and Permaculture Gardens in paperback or digital formats.

Food Forest Plants for Hotter Conditions: 250+ Plants For Tropical Food Forests & Permaculture Gardens.
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Other Uses

Plants can be grown for ground cover, they should be spaced about 25cm apart each way and form a carpet of growth[208]. This species is probably not very worthwhile for ground cover in Britain because of its difficulty to cultivate[208].

Special Uses

Food Forest  Ground cover  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Rock garden, Woodland garden. Requires an open lime-free humus-rich soil and shade from direct sunlight[11, 182, 200]. Grows well in the shade of other calcifuge plants such as rhododendrons and also under pine trees[245]. A very cold-hardy plant but it is often excited into premature growth by mild winter weather and is then subject to damage by frost[11]. The flower buds require a period of chilling to about 2°c before they will open[200]. The flowers are deliciously and strongly scented[200] with a rich spicy perfume[245]. There are some named varieties, selected for their ornamental value[200]. A difficult plant to grow in cultivation[200] and very hard to transplant successfully[182]. Another report says that although the genus is generally difficult to cultivate, this species is relatively easy to grow[188]. Special Features:Attractive foliage, Fragrant flowers. The plant is heat tolerant in zones 9 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. An evergreen. A clumping mat former. Forming a dense prostrate carpet spreading indefinitely [1-2]. The root pattern is a heart root, dividing from the crown into several primary roots going down and out [1-2]. The root pattern is a tap root similar to a carrot going directly down [1-2].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

Temperature Converter

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The PFAF Bookshop

Plants For A Future have a number of books available in paperback and digital form. Book titles include Edible Plants, Edible Perennials, Edible Trees,Edible Shrubs, Woodland Gardening, and Temperate Food Forest Plants. Our new book is Food Forest Plants For Hotter Conditions (Tropical and Sub-Tropical).

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a shady position in a cold frame[200]. Another report says that the seed requires no pre-treatment and can be sown in late winter in a cold frame[113]. Surface sow and place the pot in light shade, do not allow it to dry out[113]. The seed usually germinates in 3 - 5 weeks[113]. As soon as they are large enough to handle, pot up the seedlings into individual pots. Be very careful since they strongly resent root disturbance. Grow them on in light shade in the greenhouse and plant them out in their permanent positions in the late spring of their second years growth. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame[200].Take the cutting with a part of the previous year's growth[113]. (This report is unclear as to whether it means a heel of older wood or just a small section of older wood[K]) Plants self-layer and can be divided in the spring but this must be done with great care since they deeply resent root disturbance[200].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Native Plant Search

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Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

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 :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Epigaea asiatica Shrub0.1 4-8  LMFSM103

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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Botanical References


Links / References

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Readers comment

Laura Lange   Sun Jan 19 05:32:44 2003

Link: New England Wild Flower Society SEEDS for Epigaea repens, trailing arbutus (woo hoo!)

Laura Lange   Sun Jan 19 05:32:44 2003

Link: New England Wild Flower Society SEEDS for Epigaea repens, trailing arbutus

Shelagh Kew Barker   Fri May 19 2006

Thank you for a comprehensive report on the beloved May Flower of my native Nova Scotia. I now live in California between San Francisco and Sacramento where I have a number of pines on the rear portion of the property. Of course nothing grows around these trees, which leave a good covering of needles on the ground. I would love to plant something like the May Flower but understand we do not have the cold winters of the east. However, is there something of the same family that would be possible in this shady, summer heat in the 80-95 degree F. range and rainy winters in the 30-40 degree F. range? Any information you can provide would be appreciated. Shelagh Kew Barker, Fairfield, California.

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