Two Great Locations, One Organization
48258980692_c4efde3813_o

Flowering wintergreen. Photo: Matthew Beziat.

51684212692_83a2ff337d_o

Bright red berries remain on the shrub all winter long, providing nourishment for many species of bird. Photo: HR, Flickr.

8377967199_fd0f0f5302_o

Wintergreen berry peeking through the snow. Photo: Dennis Wilkinson.

By Alyssa Abaloz
This week’s native plant is American Wintergreen, or Gaultheria procumbens.
A woody, evergreen groundcover in the blueberry family, wintergreen is another stand-out plant in the often barren winter landscapes of North America. 
Native to the understory of deciduous, hardwood forests, this shrub prefers shade to semi-shade. Moist, acidic, humus-rich soils are best, but once established it can tolerate considerable drought and heat. Hardy in zones 3 – 8, wintergreen is most commonly seen in the Eastern US and Canada. It’s found in nearly every county in Michigan, according to the University of Michigan Herbarium.
3937275514_36810858c7_o

Wintergreen is a groundcover, often found in the understory of hardwood forests. Photo: Robert Benner.

1020702588_b576d95c9a_o

Two wintergreen flowers in summertime. Photo: Jason Hollinger

Leathery, oblong leaves are present on the wintergreen year-round. Its forest-green foliage fades into a deep purple in the fall, but it does not lose its leaves in the winter, hence its evergreen title. White, bell-shaped flowers form in early summer, giving way to edible bright-red berries that persist throughout the winter, providing an excellent source of food for wildlife.
If you happen to rub the wintergreen’s leaves between your fingers, a pleasant, minty aroma will emerge. Fresh wintergreen leaves can be steeped in teas or distilled into oil of wintergreen for a variety of flavoring uses.
Also known as the Eastern teaberry, the wintergreen was commonly used in medicinal remedies. Oil of wintergreen contains methyl salicylate, a close relative of aspirin, establishing the wintergreen as a natural anti-inflammatory and a bold source of flavor.
46310427275_5d65cbac6f_o

American wintergreen illustration. Photo: rawpixel.com

Share