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Trailing Arbutus, Ground Laurel, Mayflower, Plymouth Mayflower - Epigaea repens


Family: Ericaceae - Heath family Genus Common Name: Trailing Arbutus Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Subshrub Shrub
Epigaea repens - Trailing Arbutus, Ground Laurel, Mayflower, Plymouth Mayflower. Trailing Arbutus is a shrub in the Heath family. The stems grow along or near the ground, as indicated by the genus name: Epi is from the Greek for upon, and gaia is Greek for earth.

There are three species in the Epigaea genus, one in eastern Asia (E. asiatica), one in southwestern Asia (E. gaultherioides), and this one, Epigaea repens, which is native to the eastern United States and Canada. It is Endangered in Florida, where it is found in the panhandle. It is also protected in New York, and may be extirpated in Illinois. It is the state flower of Massachusetts, and is legally protected there as well.

Found in:
AL, CT, DC, DE, FL, GA, IA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MS, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SC, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV

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Epigaea repens

Distribution of Epigaea repens in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 15 Dec 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Big Frog Mountain, Polk County, TN Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
The fragrant flowers of Trailing Arbutus are pink to white, and may be up to about an inch across, although usually slightly smaller. They are in terminal and axillary clusters of usually several flowers. The plants are functionally dioecious - while a plant will have flowers with both stamens and ovaries, one or the other on each plant will be sterile. The five petals are fused for much of their length, forming a corolla tube which is usually as long as the flower is across. The interior of the corolla tube is hairy.
Epigaea repens

Site: Chestnut Top Trail, GSMNP Date: 2016-March-23Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flowers of Trailing Arbutus can be rosy pink to white.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epigaea repens

Site: Big Frog Mountain, Polk County, TN Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The leathery leaves are hairy and are covered with a network of veins. They do not fall off during the winter, but may turn red with age.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epigaea repens

Site: Big Frog Mountain, Polk County, TN Date: 2013-April-08Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The creeping stems can be bristly-hairy, especially new growth. They can be 12 to 18 long, although the plant will rarely rise higher than 6" off the ground
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epigaea repens

Site: Chestnut Top Trail, GSMNP Date: 2016-March-23Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
A colony of Epigaea repens can form a large mat on the forest floor.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Epigaea repens

References used for identification and information:

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer