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.

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