(Chamaedaphne calyculata)

Conservation Status
Photo by Luciearl
  IUCN Red List

LC - Least Concern


N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

OBL - Obligate wetland


OBL - Obligate wetland

  Northcentral & Northeast

OBL - Obligate wetland


Leatherleaf is common and abundant shrub of northern wetlands. It occurs throughout northern Europe and Asia and northern North America. In the United States it occurs from Maine to Minnesota, south to New Jersey and Illinois, with disjunct populations in North Carolina and Washington State. In Minnesota it occurs in the north-central and northeast regions south to the Metro region. It is found in open areas in bogs, marshes, swamps, and floodplains, and on riverbanks and lakeshores. It grows under full sun in acidic, nutrient-poor soils. It is the dominant shrub of dwarf shrub wetland communities.

Leatherleaf is a perennial, evergreen, dwarf shrub that rises on several stems from an underground horizontal stem (rhizome). It can be 8 to 60 tall but is usually no more than 40 in height. It often forms dense thickets.

The stems may be erect, curving up from the base (ascending), or nearly horizontal (spreading). They have many stiff, wiry branches.

First year twigs are brown and are covered with minute hairs and scattered scales. In the second year they turn gray and eventually brown or purplish-brown. The mass of spongy cells in the center of the stem (pith), best seen when the stem is sliced at an angle, is solid.

The leaves are alternate, leathery, evergreen, to 2 (15 to 50 mm) long, and to (10 to 15 mm) wide. They are on short, 116 to (1.5 to 3 mm) long leaf stalks (petioles). They often point upward from the stem. The largest mature leaves are 3 times as long as wide. The leaf blades are oval, sometimes with nearly parallel sides (oblong), sometimes widest in the middle and narrowing to both ends (elliptic), rarely widest beyond the middle (obovate). They are wedge shaped at the base, taper to a broad or narrow point at the tip, and have a short, abrupt point at the tip (mucronate). The upper surface is dark olive-green, dull, and hairless, and is sparsely covered with scales. The lower surface is pale green and densely covered with white or rust-colored scales. The margins are slightly rolled under and have minute, rounded teeth.

The inflorescence is a leafy, 1½ to 4¾ (4 to 12 cm) long, unbranched, one-sided (secund) cluster (raceme) of 8 to 20 small flowers at the end of the stem and branches. The leaves within the raceme are similar to branch leaves but much smaller.

The flowers are urn-shaped and 316 to ¼ (5 to 7 mm) long. They have both male and female parts (bisexual). Each flower hangs downward singly from a leaf axil on a 132 to (1 to 3 mm) long, densely hairy stalk (pedicel). There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are broadly triangular, 116to (1.5 to 3 mm) long, and scaly. The petals are fused for most of their length then separated into 5 short lobes. The lobes are 132 to 116 (1 to 2 mm) long and curved backward. The stamens do not extend beyond the corolla. The style sometimes extends slightly beyond the corolla.

The fruit is a hairless, flattened globular, 5-chambered, to 3 16 (3 to 5 mm) in diameter capsule. It matures in the fall and remains on the plant through the winter. The sepals and the style persist with the capsule.




8 to 60


Flower Color




Similar Species


Wet. Bogs, marshes, swamps, floodplains, riverbanks, and lakeshores. Full sun.




Early May to mid-June


Pests and Diseases






Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.








Common and abundant in the northeastern third of Minnesota.

  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Ericales (heathers, balsams, primroses, and allies)  


Ericaceae (heath)  
  Subfamily Vaccinioideae (blueberries, cranberries, huckleberries, and allies)  
  Tribe Gaultherieae  


Chamaedaphne (leatherleaves)  

Leatherleaf is the only species in the genus Chamaedaphne.


Subordinate Taxa




Andromeda calyculata

Cassandra calyculata

Cassandra calyculata var. angustifolia

Cassandra calyculata var. latifolia

Chamaedaphne calyculata var. angustifolia

Chamaedaphne calyculata var. latifolia

Chamaedaphne calyculata var. nana


Common Names















Growing upward at an angle or curving upward from the base.



A collective name for all of the petals of a flower.



Narrowly oval, broadest at the middle, narrower at both ends, with the ends being equal.



Tipped with a short, sharp, abrupt point.



Two to four times longer than wide with nearly parallel sides.



Inversely egg-shaped, with the attachment at the narrower end.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antennae. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



On plants: The stalk of a leaf blade or a compound leaf that attaches it to the stem. On ants and wasps: The constricted first one or two segments of the rear part of the body.



The spongy cells in the center of the stem.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



Extending nearly horizontal.

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Located in bog/wetland

    leatherleaf   leatherleaf  
    leatherleaf   leatherleaf  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos








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Other Videos
  chamaedaphne calyculata

Aug 22, 2011

chamaedaphne calyculata

  Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) in full bloom at Glacial Park

Apr 22, 2020

Leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) is in full bloom! This plant can be found in bogs, like the one in Glacial Park, and when in full bloom the bog takes on a cream hue. This is a state-threatened species and happens to be a dominant one in our bogs.

  Last snow and Bog Leatherleaf flowering
Mukhrino Field Station

Feb 5, 2018

The last snow come late in 2014 when leaves were already partly opened and the Bog Leatherleaf (C. calyculata) was flowering, on 30 May. You could see raised water lever due to snowmelt in early summer of Mukhrina river, and a piece of bog nearby the station's house. The snow was heavy and surprizing and inspired me to make a short movie :).




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Location: Cass County

Located in bog/wetland

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Created: 4/27/2020

Last Updated:

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