E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Myrica gale L.
sweet gale (sweetgale)
Myricaceae (Bayberry family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #9532)

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Distribution of Myrica gale
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Species Information

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Shrub, 0.5-2 m tall, spreading by suckers; stems spreading, finely hairy when young, glabrous at maturity, loosely branched, bark dark reddish.
Alternate, deciduous, oblanceolate to more oblong, 3-6 cm long, up to 2 cm wide, entire to coarsely few-toothed above the middle, hairy on both surfaces or rarely glabrous below, strongly dotted with yellow wax-glands, rounded to blunt, aromatic.
Inflorescence of male and female flowers in spikes on separate plants; male catkins 1-2 cm long, the male flowers with 3-5 stamens, the filaments shorter than the anthers; female spikes 1 cm long, crowded, bractlets flattened, fused with the pistil at the base and longer than the subtending bract, yellow-waxy.
Nutlets, 2.8-3 mm long, cone-like, glabrous except for wax glands.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

USDA Species Characteristics

Flower Colour:
Blooming Period:
Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Blue
Present over the Spring
Source:  The USDA

Habitat / Range

Swamps, bogs, fens, lakeshores and estuary edges in the lowland and montane zones; common in coastal BC, rare in SC and NE BC; circumboreal, N to AK, YT and NT, E to NF and S to MN, TN, NC and OR; Eurasia.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Myrica gale

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 0 192 1420
Slope Gradient (%) 0 3 45
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
5 300 350
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
1 6 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: BWBS(19), CDF(10), CWH(179), SBS(1)

Ecological Indicator Information

A very shade-intolerant, submontane to subalpine, circumpolar deciduous shrub (trans­continental in North America). Occurs on wet to very wet, nitrogen-medium soils within boreal, wet cool temperate, and cool mesothermal climates; its occurrence increases with increasing latitude. Symbiotic with nitrogen­fIxing organisms. Common and often dominant in non-forested, semi-terrestrial communities on water-collecting sites. Occasionally grows with Carex obnupta, C. sitchensis, and Spiraea douglasii. Characteristic of wetlands.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is not evaluated, unknown or variable.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Gale palustris A. Chev.
Myrica gale var. subarctica Rouss.
Myrica gale var. subglabra (A. Chev) Fernald
Myrica gale var. tomentosa C. DC.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References