Alaska Moss (or Bell) Heather grows in the mountains on rocky mountain slopes, cliff edges and alpine tundra. It is a mat-forming dwarf evergreen shrub that has long trailing woody branches that are 2-3" tall. Short, needlelike leaves circle the branches that terminate in white bell-shaped flowers.
The genus Harrimanella is named for the American railway tycoon and financer E.H. Harriman (1848-1909), a patron of science and organizer of the 1900 Harriman Expedition of whom John Muir was a member. The species name stelleriana honors Georg Steller (1709-46), the German naturalist who accompanied Vitus Bering on his 1741 expedition to Alaska. Steller was the first naturalist to study the plants and animals of Alaska and was the first person to describe the now extinct species of manatee that lived along the Aleutians, the Steller's sea cow.
There are several species of heather in Alaska. Mountain Heather, Phyllodoce sp, has urn shaped flowers and longer leaves. Bell Heather, Cassiope tetragona, has hanging white flowers and leaves in 4 stacking rows, causing the branches to look like a Philips head screwdriver.