The Tiniest Azalea

Alpine-azalea ( Kalmia   procumbens ) in fruit.

Alpine-azalea (Kalmia procumbens) in fruit.

One of the highlights of the botanical finds I had during this past trip to Newfoundland was the Alpine-azalea (Kalmia procumbens). This small shrub is a member of the Ericaceae that forms a cushion-like mound about 10 centimeters (4 inches) tall. Inhabiting northern, alpine regions around the world, it has tiny pink flowers tucked in between the leathery, opposite leaves. Like many of the plants I had wanted to see, I had missed this species in flower, but the fruits were just as cool. 

The compact growth form is known in botanical circles as a "cushion plant" growth form is found in alpine habitats across the world and across a number of plant families. These are actually masses of individual stems that grow very slowly and at the same rate so one stem is not more exposed than then another. This allows the plants to survive cold and harsh climates. Additionally, its tough leaf cuticles protect it from the cold winds that can dessicate the plants.

More details about this species can be found on Go Botany.  

Habitat for alpine azalea at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.

Habitat for alpine azalea at Mistaken Point Ecological Reserve.