one-sided wintergreen

(Orthilia secunda)

Conservation Status
one-sided wintergreen
  IUCN Red List

not listed


N5? - Secure

SNR - Unranked


not listed

Wetland Indicator Status
  Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland


FAC - Facultative

  Northcentral & Northeast

FAC - Facultative


One-sided wintergreen is a common but often overlooked plant in northern and mountain forests. It is native, widespread, and common across the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States it is common in New England, the Upper Midwest, and the West, absent from the South and Lower Midwest. In Minnesota it is very common in the Arrowhead and north-central regions, less common in the Metro and southeast regions, and absent from the southwest. It is found in deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests, and in bogs. It grows in dry to moist soil under full to partial shade. In Minnesota it is found mostly on moist, mossy forest floors. It obtains about half of its nutrients from the underground fungal (mycorrhizal) network that assists other plants in absorbing nutrients from the soil.

One-sided wintergreen is an erect, perennial, long-lived forb that rises on a single stem from a forking, underground, horizontal stem (rhizome). It can be 4¾ to 13 (12 to 33 cm) tall, but is usually less than 7 (20 cm) in height.

The leaves are evergreen, ¾ to 1 (20 to 47 mm) long, and ¼ to 1 (7 to 28 mm) wide. They are firm and sometimes have an almost leathery texture. They appear basal, rising from the rhizome, but are actually clustered on the stem near the base. They appear to be in whorls, emerging from the same point on the stem, but are actually alternate or in pseudowhorls, very closely spaced but emerging at separate points on the stem. There are usually 2 to 4 pseudowhorls, sometimes just 1. Each leaf is on a hairless, to ¾ (4 to 20 mm) long stem (petiole). The petiole is channeled above. The leaf blade may be egg-shaped or broadly egg-shaped, widest near the base; elliptic, widest at the middle; or nearly circular. It is rounded to narrowly angled at both ends. The upper surface is shiny, green, and hairless. The lower surface is dull, light green, and hairless. The margins are flat, rarely somewhat rolled toward the underside. It may be untoothed or have fine rounded teeth. It does not have sharp teeth.

The stem may be erect or lay on the ground with just the tip curved upward (decumbent). There is no visible point where the short stem ends and the long inflorescence stalk (peduncle) begins. Both are hairless and green or slightly reddish. The stem is unbranched, leafy, and smooth to the touch. The peduncle is unbranched and leafless but usually has minute, pimple-like protuberances (papilla), especially dense toward the top. There are usually 2 to 5 small modified leaves (bracts) on the peduncle, but these may be absent. The bracts are narrowly or broadly lance-shaped, to (3 to 9 mm) long, and 132 to 116 (1 to 2 mm) wide.

The inflorescence is a ¾ to 2 (2 to 5 cm) long, unbranched cluster (raceme) of flowers at the end of the stem. There are usually 6 to 20 flowers but there may be as few a 2 or as many as 29. They hang downward from one side of the arcing tip of the peduncle.

Each flower is ¼ to long, bell-shaped, and as long or longer than wide. It hangs from a to ¼ (3 to 7 mm) long flower stalk (pedicel). At the base of each pedicel, but not attached to the pedicel, is a scale-like, awl-shaped or more or less lance-shaped bract. The bract is about the same length as the pedicel. There are 5 outer floral leaves (sepals), 5 petals, and 10 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are fused just at the base then broadly separated into 5 broadly triangular to egg-shaped lobes. They are green but may have white or pinkish margins. The petals are white, 316 to ¼ (4.5 to 6.0 mm) long, and (3 to 4 mm) wide. The stamens protrude just beyond the petals. The style is green, stout, and long, protruding far beyond the petals.

The fruit is a flattened globe-shaped, to 3 16 (3 to 5 mm) long, to ¼ (4 to 6 mm) in diameter capsule. When in fruit the peduncle straightens and elongates and the pedicels straighten so that the capsules are stiffly held more or less parallel to the ground. The infructescence (all of the fruits) is up to 3 (8.5 cm) long.




4¾ to 7 (12 to 20 cm)


Flower Color




Similar Species


Dry to moist. Deciduous, coniferous, and mixed forests; and bogs. Full to partial shade.




June to July




One-sided wintergreen grows in the often deep shade of northern forests. In 2007 it was discovered that it obtains about half of its nutrients from the underground fungal (mycorrhizal) network that assists other plants in absorbing nutrients form the soil.




Distribution Map



2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 28, 29, 30.









  Kingdom Plantae (green algae and land plants)  
  Subkingdom Viridiplantae (green plants)  
  Infrakingdom Streptophyta (land plants and green algae)  
  Superdivision Embryophyta (land plants)  
  Division Tracheophyta (vascular plants)  
  Subdivision Spermatophytina (seed plants)  
  Class Magnoliopsida (flowering plants)  
  Superorder Asteranae  


Ericales (heathers, balsams, primroses, and allies)  


Ericaceae (heath)  
  Subfamily Pyroloideae  
  Tribe Pyroleae  



Some authorities, including GRIN, place the tribe Pyroleae in the subfamily Monotropoideae. Others place it in the subfamily Pyroloideae. The Angiosperm Phylogeny Website, which should be the last word on naming of North American plants, places Pyroleae in the subfamily Pyroloideae.

One-sided wintergreen was formerly placed in the genus Pyrola, and Pyrola was formerly placed in the family Pyrolaceae. In 2002, Pyrolaceae and four other families were placed in the heath family (Ericaceae). This species was placed in the new genus Orthilia based on the one-sided inflorescence and the longer, bell-shaped flower. It remains the only species in that genus.


Subordinate Taxa




Orthilia secunda var.obtusata

Orthilia secunda var.obtusata

Pyrola secunda

Pyrola secunda ssp. obtusata

Pyrola secunda ssp. obtusata

Ramischia elatior

Ramischia secunda


Common Names


one-sided orthilia

one-sided pyrola

one-sided wintergreen


sidebells wintergreen












Modified leaf at the base of a flower stalk, flower cluster, or inflorescence.



Reclining on the ground but with the tip ascending.



On plants: A tiny, rounded, nipple-like projection on the surface of a leaf or petal. On mushrooms: A small, raised, sharply pointed projection on the cap above the point of attachment with the stalk.



On plants: the stalk of a single flower in a cluster of flowers. On insects: the second segment of the antenna. On Hymenoptera and Araneae: the narrow stalk connecting the thorax to the abdomen: the preferred term is petiole.



In angiosperms, the stalk of a single flower or a flower cluster; in club mosses, the stalk of a strobilus or a group of strobili.



On plants: The stalk of a leaf blade or a compound leaf that attaches it to the stem. On ants and wasps: The constricted first one or two segments of the rear part of the body.



An unbranched, elongated inflorescence with stalked flowers. The flowers mature from the bottom up.



A horizontal, usually underground stem. It serves as a reproductive structure, producing roots below and shoots above at the nodes.



An outer floral leaf, usually green but sometimes colored, at the base of a flower.



The male reproductive organ of a flower consisting of an pollen-producing anther on a supporting filament.



Part of the pistil, usually a slender stalk, connecting the ovary to the stigma(s).

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Flowering plant

    one-sided wintergreen   one-sided wintergreen  


    one-sided wintergreen      

Fruiting pant

    one-sided wintergreen   one-sided wintergreen  


    one-sided wintergreen   one-sided wintergreen  






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Other Videos
  An Herbal Adventure; Pyrola Orthilia secunda
Lumara Rose

Jul 27, 2016

Another species in the orchid family; Sidebells Pyrola Orthilia secunda... these lovely specimens are so delicate. I love how there are many little bells unlike their relative with only a single bell Pyrola uniflor Single delight. Wish the footage was clear, but I hope you get the idea.

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Created: 2/23/2020

Last Updated:

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