The Trailing Arbutus Emits a Fragrant Scent
The trailing arbutus is a perennial shrub indigenous to the United States from Kentucky's western borders and as far east as Australia. Its more familiar names are ground laurel and Mayflower. In April and May, it yields a white to a slightly pink flower. It's not only beautiful to look at as a decorative garden accessory, but the plant's leaves also have medicinal uses.
Belonging to the most prominent family of plants, the Ericaceae, the trailing arbutus is grouped with the very natural cranberry, blueberry, and huckleberry. These plants include shrubs, trees, dwarf shrubs, and herbs. They can also be referred to as members of the heather or heath family.
The trailing arbutus is a part of a family of plants that can thrive in poor conditions like acidic or infertile soil and shaded areas. It is most at home in sandy peat loosely packed and fertilized with decaying vegetation under a broad shade tree. As long as the soil gets excellent drainage, this evergreen sub-shrub should grow to its maximum height of one to three inches tall. It will grow well in climates as cold as zone 3, but it does not do well in hot, humid climates like zone 8.
The flowers are a delightful smell, giving off a spicy scent. The flowers, when booming, are in close clusters of eight tubular blossoms. The evergreen leaves are leathery and stiff, ranging from 1/2 inch narrow and 3/4 to 4 inches long to 2 inches wide. The stems start hairy. As they age, the surface is no longer covered with tiny spines. It’s covered with flaking bark.
There are medicinal uses for the shrub's leaves. An infusion can be prepared by placing one ounce of the shrub's leaves in one pint of boiling water to make a tea. This should be taken to assist with bladder or urinary irritation or problems. The trailing arbutus was wiped out of certain areas at one point because of its demand as a folk remedy for kidney stones and as a blood purifier.
While this plant may have some herbal benefits, it also has some toxicity, so you must be careful. As an ornamental plant, it serves a great purpose as the ground cover in areas that would not typically support living vegetation. It's not only beautiful to look at; it also smells heavenly, making it the perfect plant for welcoming visitors and family to your home.