Cassiope mertensiana

Taisha is the author of this entry. She writes:

Today’s photo is of Cassiope mertensiana, or white mountain-heather. This species is featured in Alpine Plants of British Columbia, Alberta, and Northwest North America, authored by Jim Pojar and Andy MacKinnon. Mike Hays is the photographer, sharing his image both in the book and with us on Botany Photo of the Day. Thank you, Mike! For local readers, do note that Andy MacKinnon will be giving a talk next week at the Native Plant Society of BC’s Annual General Meeting on “Life above the Treeline: Plant Adaptations to the Alpine”.

Cassiope mertensiana of the Ericaceae is, of course, an alpine species of western North America. It is found in open forests, meadows, rocky slopes, heathlands and tundra. White mountain-heather is a mat-forming dwarf species with opposite evergreen leaves. The white solitary flowers are bell-shaped and held upon a bending red stalk.

According to Native American Ethnobotany by Daniel E. Moerman, Cassiope mertensiania was used by the Nlaka’pamux (formerly known as the Thompson) as a remedy for tuberculosis where a decoction of the plant was taken over a period of time.

Taxonomically, some references suggest the name should be Andromeda mertensiana, but most references retain Cassiope mertensiana, including The Plant List and the Jepson eFlora.

Cassiope mertensiana

4 responses to “Cassiope mertensiana”

  1. Dianne Saichek

    These are sooooooo cute, but there’s no indication of size. I suspect they’re very small, but would like data.

  2. Betty Bahn

    I grow Cassiope mertensiana in a trough on the Oregon Coast. My trough are covered by clear plastic corrugated roofing in the winter,bungeed above the troughs. This is an mat forming alpine species- about 3″ tall- 6″ wide, and expects to be covered by winter snow and does not like our heavy winter rains. The soil mix is 2/3 pumice, and some potting soil. Never fertilize it, it expects a lean mixture It blooms heavily in early spring. I have seen it in matts in the Cascades at higher elevations here in Oregon. It is very special and brings many admiring comments.

  3. michael aman

    I’ve never explored the mountains of the West, but on Mount Washington in New Hampshire, there are several of the Ericacea family that grace the slopes. Very charming in May and June and July as spring creeps up the slopes finally reaching the alpine zone.

  4. drbob

    White mountain heather probably grows around every subalpine lake in California’s Sierra Nevada and Klamath mountains. As lovely as it is, it also is quite toxic, at least to ruminants. Most other Ericaceae are similarly toxic. Within minutes of eating more than a mouthful, something in the plant disrupts the rumen microflora, inducing bloat. The animals stagger about as if stinking drunk. We actually carry activated charcoal to treat our pack goats if they get into some. Does anyone know what the active agent is?

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