General: Heath family (Ericaceae). Native perennial, evergreen shrubs 0.3-1.5 meters tall, the stems covered with tiny brownish scales. Leaves are alternate, oblong to elliptic, 1.5-5 cm long, finely toothed, the lower surface covered with tiny brownish scales, becoming smaller and positioned to the upper side of the stem towards the branch tips. The flowers are white, urn-shaped, 6-7 mm long, hanging and arising from one side of the terminal inflorescence, solitary in the axils of the small leaves. Fruits are depressed-globose, woody, gray-brown capsules, persisting through the winter. Common name is in reference to the tough, evergreen leaf.
Variation within the species: several varieties have been recognized within leatherleaf in North America, based primarily on differences in leaf size and shape (see Fernald 1950). These taxa are currently regarded as within the limits of continuous variation of the species and are not formally recognized.
Distribution: Circumboreal; northern North America from Alaska and Yukon and all of Canada (except Franklin) to the easternmost provinces, in the US in the Great Lake states and the Northeast, disjunct and rare in Maryland, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
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