Myrica gale

Sweet Gale

Sweet Gale, Sawbill Lake, BWCAW. Photo copyright 2002 by Earl J.S. Rook

Sweet Gale, Sawbill Lake, BWCAW
Photo © by Earl J.S. Rook, 2002

Flora, fauna, earth, and sky...
The natural history of the northwoods


  • Myrica, from the Latin for the tamarisk tree
  • gale,
  • Sweet Gale, from
  • Other common names include Bayberry, Bog Myrtle, English Bog Myrtle, Dutch Myrtle, Herba Myrti Rabanitini, Pors (Dan, Nor, Swe), Suomyrtit (Fin), Gagelstrauch (Ger), Roid (Gaelic)


  • Kingdom Plantae, the Plants
    • Division Magnoliophyta, the Angiosperms (flowering plants)
      • Class Magnoliopsida, the Dicotyledons
      • Subclass Hamamelididae
        • Order Myricales
          • Family Myriaceae, the Bayberries; with Comptonia (Sweet Fern)
            • Genus Myrica, with the native bayberries and Wax Myrtle
  • Taxonomic Serial Number: 19265
  • Also known as Gale palustris


  • A ¼, ½, ¾, º, é
  • Leaves
  • Stem
  • Roots
  • Flowers
    • Sepals
    • Petals
    • Stamens
    • Pistils
    • Ovary superior (within blossom) inferior (below flower)
  • Fruit
  • Seed
  • A deciduous, bushy shrub, to 4' tall.
  • Leaves, not unlike a willow or myrtle, oblanceolate, tapering entire at the base, toothed and broadest at the apex, the upper side dark glossy green, the underside paler and slightly downy, under which are a few shining glands.
  • Stems and leaves fragrant when bruised.
  • Flowers tiny, white; in clusters borne on the bare wood of the previous year's growth.
  • Dioecious. The male plant produces flowers in May and June in crowded, stalkless catkins. The fruit catkins about the same size, but thicker, are closely-set, resinous nutlets.


  • Identifiable as
  • Distinguished from other bog shrubs by its bluegreen leaf color, and unique leaf shape. Leaves are toothed only at the end, which is rounded and wider than the leaf base.
  • Field Marks


  • Alaska to Newfoundland,
  • Higher latitudes of Northern Hemisphere; Great Britain, especially in the north; abundant on the Scottish moors and bogs.


  • Watersides, bogs, edges of lakes and streams.



  • Trees:
  • Shrubs:
  • Herbs:
  • Ground Covers:
  • Mammals:
  • Birds:


  • Badge of clan Campbell.
  • Branches have been used as a substitute for hops in Yorkshire and put into a beer called 'Gale Beer.' Said to be extremely good to allay thirst.


  • Leaves dried to perfume linen, etc., their odor being very fragrant, but the taste bitter and astringent.
  • Catkins or cones, boiled in water, give a scum beeswax, used to make candles.
  • Bark used to tan calfskins; if gathered in autumn, will dye wool a good yellow colour and is used for this purpose in Sweden and Wales.
  • The Swedes use it in strong decoction to kill insects, vermin and to cure the itch.
  • The dried berries are put into broth and used as spice.
  • In China, the leaves are infused like tea, and used as a stomachic and cordial.


  • Sexually by seed
  • Flowers
  • Assexually by
  • Reproduces by seed and vegetatively by rhizomes.


  • By rhizome division,


  • Hardy to USDA Zone 3 (average minimum annual temperature -40ºF)
  • Cultural Requirements
    • Sun
    • Soil
    • Water
    • Spacing
    • Fertilization
  • Size 12"-18"W x 12"-18"H
  • Growth rate
  • Good for
  • Cultivars include
    • variety 'Alba', with
  • Cultivars and species available by mail order from specialty suppliers or at local nurseries



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Last updated on 30 August, 2004