Gaultheria procumbens (Wintergreen)
|Also known as:||Eastern Teaberry, Checkerberry|
|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):|
|National distribution (click map to enlarge):|
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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:
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 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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Photos courtesy Peter M. Dziuk taken in Hubbard, Aitkin and Cass counties.
Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?
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.
on: 2022-07-23 21:31:04
June 1, 2011, an author and I drove up to "Da Range", to the Paul Wellstone memorial on Bodas road in Fayal Township. We hoped to see where Wellstone's plane came down. While walking through the woods and wetlands, I pointed out a low plant w/ shiny leaves that had two red berries on it, from last Fall. I'd seen Wintergreen plants in the BWCA years before. He had never heard of them, and was surprised by the wintergreen flavor. I also saw a Wintergreen plant in Duluth while walking with my dog through the woods near the end of Park Point in 2021.