Myrica gale (sweetgale) is a cold hardy (USDA hardiness zone 2) plant native to the northern latitudes of the northern hemisphere. In North America, the native range is from the northeastern United States west to the Great Lake states, and in the Pacific Northwest north to Alaska (U.S. Department of Agriculture–Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2021). A small population was reported in one county of North Carolina, but its continued existence is questioned beyond 2018 (LeGrand et al., 2021). Myrica gale is also native throughout Canada, Russia, Japan, North Korea, and northern Europe. It is an obligate wetland species (U.S. Department of Agriculture–Natural Resources Conservation Service, 2021) and is found almost exclusively at the edges of water bodies such as lakes, backwaters of slow rivers, acidic ponds, swamps, and bogs. Myrica gale is an upright, spreading, mounded, low-growing deciduous shrub (Dirr, 2009). Plants can be rhizomatous, but do not spread aggressively. In full sun, plants are typically 1 m tall, but may reach heights and widths of 1.2 to 1.5 m. Leaves are simple and alternate, although the arrangement of the leaves on the stem creates a whorled appearance on vertical shoots. Myrica gale is a dioecious species, with male plants producing short catkins and female plants producing fruit that are nutlets. Myrica gale is a member of the Myriaceae, a family known for tolerance to wet, acidic, infertile, sandy soils and for its ability to fix nitrogen through root nodule associations with actinorhizal bacteria.
Myrica gale ‘Lowboy’ exhibits a more compact, dense, and uniform habit than is typical for the species. It derives from the southern part of the species’ natural range, making it adaptable to landscape use, where temperatures are often warmer than those of natural areas. The plant performed well when tested in the challenging conditions of parking lot islands (Lubell, 2013). These characteristics will make this particular selection desirable for the ornamental landscape industry, which is in the process of bringing many North American native plants to market in the form of cultivated varieties (cultivars). In addition, this plant propagates easily from softwood stem cuttings and grows rapidly to a marketable plant in nursery container production.
Dirr, M.A. 2009 Manual of woody landscape plants: Their identification, ornamental characteristics, culture, propagation and uses 6th ed. Stipes Publishing Champaign, IL
Lubell, J.D. 2013 Evaluating landscape performance of six native shrubs as alternatives to invasive exotics HortTechnology 23 119 125 doi: https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTTECH.23.1.119
Royal Horticultural Society and Flower Council of Holland 1986 Royal Horticultural Society colour chart Royal Horticultural Society London, U.K