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.
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?