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Myrica gale

Sweetgale, Bog myrtle

Plant Details

Common Name: Sweetgale, Bog myrtle
Family: Acanthaceae (acanthus family)
Mature Height: 5 - 10'
Sun Requirement: Sun, Sun to part shade, Part shade to shade
Moisture Requirement: Medium - moist, Moist
Flower Color: Yellow, Red
Bloom Time: Mid summer (July - August)
Seed Collection Date: Late summer (August - September)

Myrica gale Sweetgale
Myrica gale Sweetgale
Myrica gale Sweetgale
Myrica gale Sweetgale
Myrica gale Sweet gale

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Myrica is from the Greek word for fragrance; gale is of undetermined origin

Native Habitat

Bogs, freshwater edges

Garden Uses

Sweetgale is an important nitrogen-fixing plant. Its sweet, resinous, grey-green foliage and highly ornamental fruits make it a welcome addition to the garden.


Sweetgale is a low growing deciduous aromatic shrub that grows in marshes, bogs and along the edges of lakes and ponds. Sweetgale is a reference to the fragrance the leaves and twigs exude when bruised. The plant spreads vegetatively by both branch layering and rooted suckers, often creating large island of plants and its multiple stems and branches often form dense patches.

Leaves and Stems

The grey-green leaves are simple and arranged in an alternate fashion. They are ¾” to 2 ½” long and ½” to ¾” wide. The tip of each leaf has several pairs of shallow, rounded teeth. Both sides of the leaves are covered with tiny golden resin dots which exude a spicy odor when crushed. The reddish-brown twigs are slender and hairless with resin dots and are also fragrant when bruised.


Sweetgale has male and female flowers, which are small catkins that are usually borne on separate plants. The small cylindrical flowers appear before the leaves emerge at the tips of one year old twigs. Male flowers are yellow with reddish bracts; female flowers consist of many tiny flowers each with 2 red stigmas – the effect is of a fluffy bright red tuft.


The female catkins develop into showy, waxy, yellow fruits consisting of a small cylindrical cluster made up of winged nutlets surrounded by spongy bractlets which act as flotation devices and aid in their dispersal.

Animal Associates

Sweetgale’s value to birds and mammals is minimal. However, its leaves serve as a larval host for a wide variety of moths.


Sweetgale spreads vegetatively by both branch layering and rooted suckers.

Ethnobotanical Uses

Sweetgale has been used as an insect repellent, beer flavoring and tea.

Garden Location

Patio Garden (see garden map)


Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

Adirondacks Forever Wild

Missouri Botanical Garden

Native Plant Trust 

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center 

Plant Profile by Kathy Kling