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Nature Notebook – Leatherleaf

The large number of tiny white flowers that cover the branches of the leatherleaf plant in our demonstration bog indicates that the plant had a good amount of snow cover this past winter. If the delicate buds are exposed to winter’s cold winds, they will not open the following the spring.

One might assume that the small size of the flower dictates that a small insect should be the chief pollinator. However, bumblebees (easily twice as big as the flower) seem to be the species that is getting the job done. The seeds that are produced seem to fall out of the fruit case and germinate on the sphagnum moss mat that is the leatherleaf’s preferred growing medium.

Although it produces seeds, leatherleaf’s main mode of spread is via adventitious roots and epicormics branching. The first method involves roots that can “sprout” directly from the stem. The second occurs when dormant buds low on the stem “wake up” to produce branches and roots. These vegetative growth methods, coupled with leatherleaf’s affinity for the acid conditions produced by sphagnum moss, make it one of the dominant plants in North American bogs.