Pyrola elliptica (Shinleaf)

Plant Info
Also known as: Waxflower Shinleaf, Wild Lily-of-the-valley
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist woods
Bloom season:June - August
Plant height:5 to 10 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: UPL MW: FACU NCNE: FACU
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

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Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Raceme of 7 to 15 hanging flowers on slender stalks at the top of the plant. Flowers are about 1/3 inch across with 5 oval petals and a cluster of, orange-tipped stamens under the upper petals. Petal color is waxy white, greenish white or yellowish green and there may be greenish veins on the petals. The sepals are triangular, about as long as wide and about ¼ as long as the petals. The style is pale green and curves down and out below the lower petals like an elephant's trunk.

Leaves: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are basal, oval, up to 3 inches long and 2 inches wide, with a round tip and tapering slightly at the base. The leaf surface is dull green and there are barely noticeable teeth all around the edges. The leaf stalk is as long as or shorter than the leaf blade.

Fruit: Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a flattened round capsule about ¼ inch in diameter, with the remains of the style attached at the bottom.


There are a few different members of this family that have similar flowers. Shinleaf is distinguished primarily by the dull leaves that are longer than wide and the short leaf stalk. It is the most common Pyrola in Minnesota. All of the Pyrolas have been move from family Pyrolaceae (Wintergreen) to Ericaceae (Heath).

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More photos

Photos by K. Chayka taken a Long Lake Regional Park, Ramsey County. Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Anoka County


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Alan O - SE Hubbard County
on: 2009-07-19 20:07:05

This was the first time I've ever seen this plant. Found in woods near wetland.

Posted by: Lorri A - BWCA - Clove Lake
on: 2009-08-10 09:08:07

Clove Lake is very far northeast, between Gunflint and Saganaga Lakes. We camped there on our way out of the BWCA on 8/07/09. There were several clumps of blooming shinleaf in our campsite, on the path to the latrine.

Posted by: Mark - Oakdale Nature Preserve, Oakdale MN
on: 2010-06-19 12:23:24

Photographed 06/19/10 in a small patch 150 yds southeast of the 45th/Granada entrance. First time I ever saw this plant.

Posted by: Julie - Northome, MN
on: 2011-04-27 16:26:49

I found a pink species of this plant on a balsam bog on our land south of Northome, MN.

Posted by: Barb - Two Harbors, MN
on: 2011-05-04 09:14:32

I found this plant in the ditch area on the side of the Flood Bay County Road, just north of Two Harbors, MN. I was on vacation and got interested in seeing how many MN wildflowers I could find and photograph.

Posted by: Mary - Elgin, mn
on: 2011-06-27 17:38:22

We have these in the woods on our acreage near Elgin, MN. First time I've seen them with flowers and been able to identify them.

Posted by: Linda - Washington County
on: 2011-07-07 16:58:21

Found a lot of this one blooming deep in the woods at Sunfish Lake Regional Park in Washington County on 7/7/11.

Posted by: Kate - (near) Tofte, MN
on: 2013-08-20 09:03:07

I've seen this flower twice this summer, on the Cascade River Trail, near Grand Marais, and on the Carlton Peak Trail, near Tofte. I had never seen the flower before this summer, so I was quite surprised to see it twice in the woods. Both woods were shady and moist. Pipsissewa came to mind when I first saw it, but then I looked it up in my field guide and found it to be pyrola, a new name and flower for me.

Posted by: Christine - Gooseberry Park - north of Duluth
on: 2014-08-09 10:40:27

Saw Pyrola yesterday on river trail going towards Lake Superior. Have never seen similar. My plant id group was kind enough to identify for me. Saw just one plant. South part of trail.

Posted by: Tony - Marysville Township, Wright County
on: 2015-06-29 10:01:22

I found Shinleaf for the first time on my property. It is in an area that we restored to forest in 1994 (formerly a corn field). We planted a mixture of hardwoods and Norway spruce on this hillslope. I didn't plant Shinleaf, and have never seen it elsewhere on the property, but I am happy to have it there.

Posted by: Aaron - Duluth, MN
on: 2015-07-07 11:07:35

I ran into a bunch of this on the grounds at my place of work, a small stand of a dozen birch trees, cohabiting with clover, daisy, valerian, and grasses. Many (hundreds in total?) in the area. I bent over to pluck some, thinking it was Lily of the Valley, which is invasive and smells great, so I pick it whenever I get the chance. It seemed a bit late for LotV, and I realized it was another plant when I picked the stem.

Posted by: greg - Superior trail near Temperance River
on: 2015-07-18 10:04:51

This was blooming near and on the trail as we approached Temperance river from the north.

Posted by: Donna - St Louis County
on: 2016-06-23 00:09:18

Found several Shinleaf plants near Floodwood in the woods next to the St Louis River

Posted by: Bob - Detroit Lakes
on: 2016-07-07 21:31:40

Found a white version of this flower on the North Country trail just east of the Tamarac Natl. Wildlife Refuge in NW Minnesota.

Posted by: Susan S - Duluth Minn. by Jay Cooke Park, high above St.Louis River
on: 2017-07-23 11:52:44

First time I've seen these - not many, but so fragrant! Under oaks and basswoods, and coincidentally the latter are are in bloom now too; the two fragrances (to my nose) are virtually identical. Just lovely.

Posted by: John J Pastor - McNair logging camp, 20 miles N of Two Harbors on Hwy 2
on: 2019-08-03 13:47:01

Now blooming (late July - beginning of August 2019) in the open/somewhat bushy area that was the old McNair logging camp and is now host to the Northern Blue butterfly and its host, bilberry. Blueberries and bilberries just ripening and Northern blues common. This pyrola is fairly common and scattered amongst the blueberries but generally in the shade of a willow or juneberry bush.

Posted by: Kim - Eagan
on: 2020-06-22 19:13:27

Found on the south side of Jensen lake in Eagan on June 22, 2020. Not sure of the species but it has white flowers. Very delicate.

Posted by: Erik O. - Afton, MN
on: 2020-06-26 13:30:25

Found several while visiting a private property. The soil is mesic to mesic-dry oak woods.

Posted by: Bill Karanikolas - Afton State Park
on: 2020-06-27 20:28:40

Saw it on a hillside trail leading from St. Croix River to open plateau above. Trail passed under tall trees. Everything on the ground was either green or brown except for a lone shinleaf.

Posted by: Lynette Peterson - Northern Becker County
on: 2021-06-08 19:11:47

I discovered this plant on my island 30 years ago. It has pink flowers. An old time resort owner told me it was used for medicine, hence the name shinleaf. It is growing in a wet, low and shady area and does not transplant well. But it returns yearly and is never disturbed.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2021-06-08 19:25:13

Lynette, if the flowers are pink, you may have Pyrola asarifolia (pink pyrola) instead.

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview Twp, Cass County
on: 2021-07-13 22:15:45

Found this blooming on my trail right in the middle of the path. We ususlly mow the paths, but did not get to it this year. Several patches growing in out path.

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