General: trailing, evergreen herb, often forming loose mats, up to 10 cm tall with the flower stalks. Main stems slender but woody, elongate, creeping, slightly hairy when young, and often also glandular, producing numerous short, almost erect, leafy stems mostly less than 10 cm long.
Leaves: opposite, evergreen, short-stalked, firm, rather broadly elliptic or obovate to almost round, with a few shallow teeth toward the tip, or sometimes entire, mostly 7-25 mm long and 5-15 mm wide, hairless, or long-hairy especially along the edges and veins.
Flowers: nodding, in pairs at the summit of slender, erect stalks 3.5-8 cm tall, with a pair of minute bracts at the top. Individual flower stalks 1-2.5 cm long. Calyx 2-5 mm long. Corolla funnel-shaped, 5-lobed, hairy within, mostly 9-16 mm long, with a definite slender tube at the base. Stamens 4, inserted toward the base of the corolla, 2 of them shorter than the others. Ovary 3-celled.
Fruits: capsules, small, dry, not opening, 1.5-3 mm long, unequally 3-celled, with hooked bristles, 1-seeded.
Conifer-shaded and moss-covered sites, foothills to subalpine zone, in w. and c. parts of MT. Circumpolar, extending s. to CA, AZ, NM, SD, IN, and WV.
Twinflower was reportedly used for food by the Carrier Indians, but no more details are given.
The plant was used for medicinal purposes by the several Indian tribes, the Montagnais, Tanana, Algonquin, Iroquois, and Snohomish Indians among others. It was used as a tonic in pregnancy and also in the treatment of painful or difficult menstruation. A decoction of twigs was given to children with cramps, fever or for crying. A decoction of leaves was taken for colds. The mashed plant was used as a poultice on inflamed limbs and was also applied to the head to ease the pain of headaches.
The plant forms an extensive twiggy mat and is useful as a ground cover on peat beds and in rock gardens. Plants form a dense carpet when growing in good conditions, rooting as they spread, but otherwise the cover is sparse. Plants should be spaced about 60cm apart each way.
Our specimen belong to ssp. longiflora (Torr.) Hulten.
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