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Myrica gale

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Myrica gale
Foliage and immature fruit
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Rosids
Order: Fagales
Family: Myricaceae
Genus: Myrica
M. gale
Binomial name
Myrica gale

Gale palustris

Myrica gale is a species of flowering plant in the family Myricaceae, native to parts of Japan, North Korea, Russia, mainland Europe, the British Isles and parts of northern North America, in Canada and the United States.[2] Common names include bog-myrtle,[3] sweet willow, Dutch myrtle,[4] and sweetgale.[5]



Myrica gale is a deciduous shrub growing to 1–2 metres (3+126+12 feet) tall. The leaves are spirally arranged, simple, 2–5 centimetres (34–2 inches) long, oblanceolate with a tapered base and broader tip, and a crinkled or finely toothed margin. The flowers are catkins, with male and female catkins on separate plants (dioecious). The fruit is a small drupe.

Distribution and habitat


Bog-myrtle is distributed throughout parts of the Northern Hemisphere, including: Japan, North Korea, Russia, mainland Europe, the British Isles, Canada and the United States.

It typically grows in acidic peat bogs, and to cope with these difficult nitrogen-poor growing conditions, the roots have nitrogen-fixing actinobacteria which enable the plants to grow.


Male plant with catkins

Sweetgale can grow in a narrow band in the intertidal zone, especially if logs have been washed into the estuary on which to establish itself. It is a favorite food of beavers, and low beaver dams can be found in the intertidal zone if sufficient sweetgale is present. The ponds thus formed are often completely submerged at high tide but retain enough water at low tide to provide refuge for fish. If too deep for predation by wading birds, juvenile salmon may flourish.[6]



The foliage has a sweet resinous scent and is a traditional insect repellent, used by campers to keep biting insects out of tents. It is also a traditional component of royal wedding bouquets and is used variously in perfumery and as a condiment.

In Scotland, UK, it has been traditionally used to ward off the Highland midge,[7] and it is marketed as an insect repellent and as an ingredient in some soaps.[8]

Queen Victoria was given a sprig of bog-myrtle which she planted on the Isle of Wight. Her daughter used some of the plant that grew in her wedding bouquet, starting a royal tradition.[9]

Food and medicine


The leaves can be dried to make tea, and both the nutlets and dried leaves can be used to make a seasoning.[10]

In north-western Europe (Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands), it was much used in a mixture called gruit as a flavouring for beer from the Middle Ages to the 16th century, but it fell into disuse after hops supplanted gruit herbs for political and economic reasons.[11][12] In modern times, some brewers have revisited this historic technique and in Denmark and Sweden the plant is commonly used to prepare home-flavoured schnaps.[13]

In some native cultures in Eastern Canada, the plant has been used as a traditional remedy for stomach aches, fever, bronchial ailments, and liver problems.[citation needed] "The Creole Doctor", an 1886 article by Lafcadio Hearn, discusses the uses of the plant, known locally as "cirier batard," in Louisiana creole folk remedies.[14]

In 2007 there were plans to increase production of the plant in Scotland for use as an essential oil for treating sensitive skin and acne.[7] The plant has been listed as an abortifacient and therefore should not be consumed by women who are, or might be, pregnant.[15]


  1. ^ Maiz-Tome, L. (2016). "Myrica gale". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T64318305A67730167. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-1.RLTS.T64318305A67730167.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Myrica gale". Germplasm Resources Information Network. Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture.
  3. ^ BSBI List 2007 (xls). Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland. Archived from the original (xls) on 2015-06-26. Retrieved 2014-10-17.
  4. ^ Walker, Marilyn (2008). Wild plants of Eastern Canada : identifying, harvesting and using : includes recipes & medicinal uses. Halifax, N.S.: Nimbus Pub. ISBN 9781551096155. OCLC 190965401.
  5. ^ USDA, NRCS (n.d.). "Myrica gale". The PLANTS Database (plants.usda.gov). Greensboro, North Carolina: National Plant Data Team. Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  6. ^ Hood, W. Gregory (2012). "Beaver in tidal marshes: dam effects on low-tide channel pools and fish use of estuarine habitat". Wetlands. 32 (3): 408. doi:10.1007/s13157-012-0294-8. S2CID 17127896. Retrieved 11 June 2016.
  7. ^ a b Kelbie, Paul (12 February 2007). "Scotland's bog myrtle to fuel second oil boom". The Independent. Archived from the original on 22 May 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2014.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Archived
  8. ^ Evans, Emyr (27 September 2012). "It's Not Just about Our Ospreys". Liverpool Daily Post.[dead link]
  9. ^ "Princess Beatrice's Wedding Echoed Meghan and Kate's in a Sweet Way". 21 July 2020.
  10. ^ Elias, Thomas S.; Dykeman, Peter A. (2009) [1982]. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods. New York: Sterling. p. 176. ISBN 978-1-4027-6715-9. OCLC 244766414.
  11. ^ "Gale (Myrica gale L.)". Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages. Retrieved 10 February 2014.
  12. ^ Justyna, Wubs-Mrozewicz (2005). Hopped Beer as an innovation; The Bergen Beer Market around 1200-1600 in the European Context. H. Brand (ed.) Trade, Diplomacy and Cultural Exchange, (2005) pp. 152-168
  13. ^ Patrick E. McGovern, Gretchen R. Hall, Armen Mirzoian, "A biomolecular archaeological approach to Nordic grog" in Danish Journal of Archaeology (2013) pp. 112-131, see p. 124
  14. ^ Lafcadio Hearn, "The Creole Doctor: Some Curiosities of Medicine in Louisiana." New York Tribune, January 3, 1886.
  15. ^ "Myrica gale". Plants For A Future. Retrieved 10 February 2014.