wintergreen

(Gaultheria procumbens)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not listed

wintergreen

 

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

SNR - Unranked

Minnesota

not listed

Wetland
Indicator
Status

Great Plains

FACU - Facultative upland

Midwest

FACU - Facultative upland

Northcentral & Northeast

FACU - Facultative upland

Nativity

Native

Occurrence

Common in northeastern and north-central Minnesota

Habitat

Dry or moist. Forests, woodlands, bogs, and fens. Partial sun or light shade. Acidic soil.

 
Flowering

Mid-June to late August

 
Flower Color

White

 
Height

2 to 8

 

Identification

Wintergreen is a slow-growing, perennial, evergreen, 2 to 8 tall, dwarf shrub. It is common in most of its range from Maine to Minnesota and south along the Appalachian Mountains to Georgia. It is fairly common in northeast and northcentral Minnesota. It grows in dry or moist woodlands, in partial sun or light shade, in nutrient poor, acidic soil. It does not tolerate alkalinity and does not form mats.

Ascending branches rise from a creeping, woody, horizontal stem (rhizome). The rhizome may lay on the soil surface or be buried ¾ to 1¼ below it. The branches are themselves sparingly branched. They are semi-woody, light green or red, and either covered with white woolly hairs or almost hairless.

Two to five leaves are crowded at the end of each branch. The leaves are alternate, evergreen, ¾ to 1¾ long, and to 1 wide. They are on light green or red, 1 16 to 3 16 long leaf stalks (petioles). The leaf blades are inversely egg-shaped, oval, elliptic, or rarely almost round. They are broadly or narrowly angled at the base and broadly angled or rounded at the tip. The upper surface is bright green or dark green, shiny, and hairless. The lower surface is pale green, hairless, and and covered with a whitish, waxy bloom (glaucous). The margins are slightly rolled backward toward the underside. They have widely-spaced teeth that are tipped with a bristle. The leaves have a minty (wintergreen) fragrance and taste. They turn purplish-red in winter,

The inflorescence is two or three flowers, each arising singly from an upper leaf axil. They droop at the end of a pinkish, hairy, 3 16 to long flower stalk.

The flowers are about 5 16 long and urn-shaped to broadly cylinder-shaped. They have have 5 sepals, 5 petals, 10 stamens, and 1 style. The sepals are white and much smaller than the petals. They are fused at their base and for more than half of their length into a saucer-shaped calyx, then separated into 5 lobes at the tip. The petals are white and 5 16 to long. They are fused at the base and for almost their entire length, then separated at the tip into 5 very short rounded lobes. The stamens have pinkish stalks (filaments) and yellow forked anthers.

After the flower is fertilized, the petals turn brownish and drop off as a unit, leaving the developing fruit and a very long style. When ripe, the fruit is a bright red, ¼ to in diameter, berry-like capsule that tastes like wintergreen. It has 20 to 80 seeds and often remains on the plant through winter.

 
Similar
Species

 


Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 24, 28, 29, 30.


Comments

Edible and Toxic
Wintergreen contains the aromatic compound methyl salicylate. In the past, oil of wintergreen has been used as a natural flavor in chewing gum, candy, soft drinks, toothpaste, and snuff. Dried leaves have been used to make tea, giving it another common name “teaberry”. In large amounts oil of wintergreen is toxic. Today, methyl salicylate is produced artificially for commercial uses.


Taxonomy

Family:

Ericaceae (Heath)

 

Subfamily:

Vaccinioideae

 

Tribe:

Gaultherieae

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

checkerberry

creeping wintergreen

eastern teaberry

eastern wintergreen

 

mountain-tea

teaberry

wintergreen


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Calyx

The group of outer floral leaves (sepals) below the petals, occasionally forming a tube.

 

Filament

On plants: The thread-like stalk of a stamen which supports the anther. On Lepidoptera: One of a pair of long, thin, fleshy extensions extending from the thorax, and sometimes also from the abdomen, of a caterpillar.

 

Glaucous

Pale green or bluish gray due to a whitish, powdery or waxy film, as on a plum or a grape.

 

Petiole

The stalk of a leaf blade or compound leaf that attaches the leaf blade to the stem.

 

Rhizome

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

       

Visitor Photos

   
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Luciearl


Wintergreen

... a favorite that I look for on walks through the woods. I frequently pick a leaf and tell someone to chew it when on my trail. A pleasant surprise when they bite in.

  wintergreen   wintergreen

       
       
       

MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos

   

Plants

  wintergreen   wintergreen
       
  wintergreen    
       

Flowering Plant

  wintergreen   wintergreen
       
  wintergreen    
       

Fruit

After the flower is fertilized, the petals turn brownish and drop off as a unit, leaving the developing fruit and a very long style.

  wintergreen   wintergreen
       

Leaves

  wintergreen   wintergreen
       
       
       

 

Camera

     

Slideshows

   
  Wintergreen or Checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens)
Andree Reno Sanborn
 
  Wintergreen or Checkerberry (Gaultheria procumbens)  

 

slideshow

     

Visitor Videos

   
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Other Videos

 
  Plant portrait - Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)
Identify that Plant
 
   
 
About

Published on Jan 18, 2014

A detailed look at the life cycle of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens). These images can help to accurately identify the plant during different seasons of the year.

 
     
  Gaultheria procumbens
VT Dendrology
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 22, 2016

teaberry

 
     
  Identifying New England Wintergreen (tea berry)
Paleo GreenByrd
 
   
 
About

Published on Apr 7, 2018

Gaultheria procumbens known as tea berry found in New England, this video is shot in southern Maine

 
     
  American Wintergreen - Gaultheria procumbens - with Susun Weed
wisewomantradition
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 24, 2017

Susun shows her class American wintergreen.

Courtesy of http://www.herbshealing.com -- Join Susun Weed to reweave the healing cloaks of the Ancients. Herbal Medicine is People's Medicine. Learn more at: http://www.wisewomanmentor.com

 
     

 

Camcorder

         

Visitor Sightings

   
Share your sighting of this plant.

Luciearl
9/2018

Location: Cass County

... a favorite that I look for on walks through the woods. I frequently pick a leaf and tell someone to chew it when on my trail. A pleasant surprise when they bite in.

wintergreen


Luciearl
11/2016

Location: Cass County

wintergreen


     
     
 

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