Labrador tea

Ledum palustre

Labrador tea, photo: Kaarina Heikkonen

This plant has a unique, strong, and rank smell. The most characteristic features of the Labrador tea are: big white corymbs in the top of the stem and its many branches, and rusty-brown tentacles that cover the entire plant. As its smell can easily cause a headache, people call it the ‘headache plant’. The headache, however, is just a small part of how it actually affects us. In fact, the long-lasting inhalation of this smell can damage health quite seriously and can lead to more severe brain disorders, even loss of consciousness. The strong smell comes from an essential oil, which is more volatile in Labrador tea than probably any other plant in Estonia. They grow primarily in bogs and bog forests, but also in all other forests that are damp enough. When it blossoms, the entire forest is often white and full of its smell. However, in some cases the toxicity of the plant is also useful; for example, for fighting pests. This is why the plant is commonly used in the determent of mice, moths, fleas, and bugs. They have even been used in plant protection.