Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)

Plant Info
Also known as: Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry
Genus:Gaultheria
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial
Origin:native
Habitat:part shade, shade; acidic or sandy soil, dry coniferous forest, mixed woodlands
Bloom season:July - August
Plant height:2 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU 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 Flower shape: bell

[photo of flowers] Single flowers hanging on smooth stalks are borne in the leaf axils at the end of a branch. Flowers are the classic nodding urn-shape of the heath family, ¼ to 1/3 inch long, the 5 white petals fused with the tips curled tightly back from the restricted opening. The calyx holding the flower is also white, the lobes oval, around 1/16 inch long and slightly hairy. The flower stalk is also slightly hairy and about same length as the flower.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: alternate Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] Leaves are evergreen, alternate, with 3 to 5 leaves at the ends of the slender branches, ¾ to 1¾ inches long, 1/3 to 1 inch wide, oval to somewhat paddle-shaped, a pointed, rounded or blunt tip, tapering at the base to a short stalk. Leaves are very shiny on the upper surface, sparsely hairy, with fine teeth widely spaced around the edges, a fine spine-like hair at the tip of a tooth. Stems are slender and woody, sparsely hairy, creeping above ground or subterranean, rooting down and sending up periodic upright branches to form colonies.

Fruit: Fruit type: berry/drupe Fruit type: capsule/pod

[photo of fruit] Fruit is a bright red to purplish berry-like capsule, ¼ to 1/3 in diameter, that has a strong flavor of wintergreen and often persists through the winter, unless eaten and dispersed by an animal.

Notes:

Widely spread throughout northern Minnesota's coniferous forests, this species was once the source of all wintergreen flavoring before modern science was able to produce it synthetically.

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More photos

Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hubbard, Aitkin and Cass counties.

Comments

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

Posted by: luciearl - Fairview township, Cass County
on: 2019-09-30 08:49:26

This grows in the shady moist parts of the woods. I often pick a leaf and chew as I walk.

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