Synonyms: Other names: western moss heather Nomenclature: mertensiana = named after Mertens Nativity / Invasiveness: Montana native plant
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General: evergreen, tufted shrub, forming widespread mats, stems 5-30 cm tall, nearly completely concealed by the leaves, hairless to finely short-hairy.
Leaves: opposite, thick, scale-like, overlapping, in 4 distinct vertical rows obscuring stem, stalkless, flat-lying, 2-5 mm long, ovate-lanceolate, rounded on the back, grooved only at the extreme base, hairless or edged with minutely glandular tiny hairs or longer chafflike, white hairs that fall off early.
Flowers: nodding, usually several near the branch tips, 5-8 mm long, the stalks 5-30 mm long, hairless or short-hairy. Sepals ovate, entire to slightly irregular on edges, reddish. Corolla bell-shaped, white, the lobes ovate, about 1/3 length of the tube, curved backward. Filaments not enlarged at the base.
Fruits: round capsules, 5-celled, splitting lengthwise along the middle of each cell, with many seeds.
Moist slopes, where snow-covered in winter, usually not much below timber line, in w. and s.c. parts of MT. Also from AK and the Canadian Rockies to CA and NV.
The Thompson Indians used a decoction of White Mountain-heather taken over a period of time for tuberculosis and spitting up blood.
var. gracilis (Piper) C. L. Hitchc.: Stems and flower stalks hairless, leaves with minute hairs on edges. From n.e. OR through ID and MT.
var. mertensiana (Bong.) D. Don: Stems and flower stalks short-hairy, calyx lobes entire, and leaves usually hairless. In the Cascades from AK to s. OR and in the Rockies to w. MT.
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