Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

False Azalea - Menziesia ferruginea

Family: Ericaceae (Crowberry family) [1]

Toxic (Andromedotoxins), Tea, Nectar, Fungal gall, Topical, Stomach problems, Heart pain

Habitat & Range
Dry to wet forests in the lowland, montane and subalpine zones; common on the coast and in WC to NW BC (ssp. ferruginea) and SE BC (ssp. glabella); N to AK and S YT, and S to N CA (ssp. ferruginea), E to W AB, and S to WY, E WA, and OR (ssp. glabella).



Food Uses

Medicinal Uses



General 0.5-4m tall.[HNW] Erect to spreading. "...finely hairy, hairs somewhat glandular and rusty-coloured".[IFBC-E-flora]
Flowers "Bell-shaped flowers salmon pink to yellow-green." [WildPNW] "petals 4, united almost to apex into an urn-shaped corolla 6-8 mm. long..."[HNW]
Fruits Seed capsules oval, standing up-right when dry. [WildPNW]
Leaves deciduous [WildPNW][IPBC][E-flora]. "...alternate, clustered at stem tips, thin, elliptic to broadly egg-shaped". "...glandular-hairy on both surfaces". "margins fine-toothed and fringed". [IFBC-E-flora] 1-2 inches long.[WildPNW]
Stem Reddish shreddy bark.[HNW]
Properties Leaves smell musky when crushed.[WildPNW]
Habitat Dry-wet forests [IFBC-E-flora], stream banks and moist coniferous woods.[HNW]
Range Coastal Washington, Oregon and Northwestern California.[WildPNW] Along the coast and in the Cascades.[HNW]

Ecological Indicator This is a "shade-tolerant/intolerant, submontane to subalpine", shrub of Western North America. "It's occurrence increases with increasing precipitation." "Scattered to plentiful on water-shedding sites in coniferous forests.Occurs in nitrogen-poor soil. In nutrient-rich areas it is limited to decaying coniferous wood. Associated with Vaccinium Sp.[IPBC][E-flora]
Similar Species Looks like huckleberry.[WildPNW] but false azalea has clustered leaves and lacks the berries.[Personal Note]


False Azalea's "Berries"

"Exobasidium sp. affin. vaccinii has been identified as a culturally recognized associate of M. ferruginea." Exobasidium spores may infect the leaves, stems, and flowers of false azalea, resulting in organ deformation and hypertrophic growth that accompanies fungal development. Exobasidium sp. are parasites lacking a distinct fruiting body. They usually confine their host range to members of Ericaceae.[Compton 1995]

The fungus sporulates on the surface of fungal galls, ranging from 1-2cm in size they are "globular, somewhat sweet, and crisp". Described as crunchy and "as resembling "snot,"" they are said to be ripe when pale-rose colored. These are harvested in summer, especially July. The fungus has a "sporadic" and uncommon occurrence or is possibly overlooked. It is relished by the Haida and several other groups in B.C. and Alaska. [Compton 1995]

Mentioned as inhabiting such areas as Northern Vancouver Island, the central coast, Haida Gwaii, and Alaska.[Compton 1995]


The leaves were found to contain 13,980 - 19,620 ppm of manganese. The highest results(by a significant margin) amongst two dozen other species. The stems were found to contain 3,111-19,997 ppm of managanese. The highest results amongst two dozen other species. [Hanley&McKendrick]




"Requires a lime-free humus-rich moist soil in sun or light shade[182]. Prefers moderate shade, especially on the roots[1, 200], but it can also succeed in full sun[11]. Grows well in a woodland garden[200]. Dormant plants are hardy to about -20oc[200]. The young growth in spring is susceptible to damage by late frosts but the plants are otherwise of easy cultivation[182]. Flowers are produced on the previous years wood[200]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]." [PFAF]


"Seed - best sown in a shady position in a cold frame in the autumn[200] but it can also be sown in late winter [78]. Surface sow and do not allow the compost to become dry. Germination is variable and can take 1 - 2 months at 15oc[78]. Keep the seedlings heavily shaded and prick them out into individual pots when they are 12 months old[78]. Plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer once they are more than 15cm tall. Cuttings of semi-ripe wood, 2 - 5cm with a heel, May/June in a frame. Keep them shaded. The cuttings are very slow to root but usually a good percentage will succeed[78]. Division in early spring just before active growth begins[78]. Layering." [PFAF]

Related Sp.

Menziesia Sp.

Family: Ericaceae - Heath

Shrub, branches straggling. Stem: bark finely shredding. Leaf: alternate, often crowded toward branch tips, deciduous, papery, elliptic, flat-brown-hairy on midrib abaxially, margin rolled under in bud. Inflorescence: terminal, umbel-like; pedicel spreading-downcurved, bud scales light brown, early-deciduous. Flower: ± bilateral, sepals 4[5], fused 3/4; petals 4[5], fused; stamens 5[8,10], anthers dehiscing by short slits, unawned; ovary superior, chambers 4[5], placentas axile. Fruit: capsule, septicidal, dehiscing tip to base. Seed: many, small, fusiform.
4–5 species: temperate Asia, America. (A. Menzies, naturalist on Vancouver expedition, 1754–1842) [Jepson]

Local Species;

  1. Menziesia ferruginea - False azalea [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]


Page last modified on Sunday, January 2, 2022 1:58 AM