Linnaea borealis

Species distinguishing characteristics: 

  • Trailing stems produce Y-shaped, flowering stalks
  • Paired, pink, bell-shaped, nodding flowers
  • Opposite evergreen leaves
  • Leaves with shallow teeth near tips
  • Forms loose mats or ground cover in shady areas

Family Characteristics: 

  • Mostly woody plants (shrubs, small trees, or vines)
  • Opposite leaves
  • Flowers and berries appear in pairs
  • Flowers with 5 (or 4) petals united into a tube
  • Fruit is a fleshy berry with remains of calyx attached
  • Pithy stems

Growth habitat: 

Trailing perennial evergreen that often forms loose mats and has erect flowering stems, up to 10 cm tall.

Leaves and stems: 

Foliage is sparsely hairy.  Reddish, slender, semi-woody, trailing stems produce erect, leafless, Y-shaped, flowering stems.  Trailing stems have opposite, shiny evergreen leaves attached by short stalks.  Leaves are broadly egg-shaped, 1–2 cm long, with a few shallow teeth toward the tips.



Paired pink (or white), narrowly funnel-shaped flowers, up to 1.5 cm long, that hang downward from the tips of a Y-shaped flowering stem.  Fragrant flowers have 5 equal lobes, are hairy within and have 2 short and 2 longer, pollen-producing stamens.


Shallow, fibrous roots at the surface of, or slightly below, the soil or duff.   


Small, round to egg-shaped seed capsule, 1.5–3 mm, with one seed in each of the 3 unequal cells and hooked bristles.  Seed capsule is dry, unopened and covered in sticky glandular hairs.  Readily catches on fur and feathers.

Habitat preferences: 

Shaded areas of moist, cool mossy forests, openings, and wetlands from low elevations to lower subalpine.

Interesting facts: 

Named in honor of Carolus Linnaeus, the originator of the binomial system that names plants and animals by genus and species.  Linnaeus often posed for photos with a sprig of twinflower.  Borealis means “northern,” referring to its widespread distribution in northern latitudes.  Can be used as native ground cover in rock gardens and on peat beds.

Biological Classification: