(Gaultheria procumbens) Heath family

Flowers - White, small, usually solitary, nodding from a leaf

axil. Corolla rounded bell-shape, 5-toothed; calyx 5-parted,

persistent; 10 included stamens, their anther-sacs opening by a

pore at the top. Stem: Creeping above or below ground, its

branches 2 to 6 in. high. Leaves: Mostly clustered at top of

branches; alternate, glossy, leathery, evergreen, much darker

above than underneath, oval to oblong, very finely saw-edged; the

entire plant aromatic. Fruit: Bright red, mealy, spicy,

berry-like; ripe in October.

Preferred Habitat - Cool woods, especially under evergreens.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Georgia, westward to Michigan and


However truly the poets may make us feel the spirit of Nature in

their verse, can many be trusted when it comes to the letter of

natural science? "Where camels arch their cool, dark boughs o'er

beds of wintergreen," wrote Bryant; yet it is safe to say that

nine colonies of this hardy little plant out of every ten he saw

were under evergreen trees, not dogwoods. When the July sun melts

the fragrance out of the pines high overhead, and the dim, cool

forest aisles are more fragrant with commingled incense from a

hundred natural censers than any stone cathedral's, the

wintergreen's little waxy bells hang among the glossy leaves that

form their aromatic carpet. On such a day, in such a resting

place, how one thrills with the consciousness that it is good to

be alive!

Omnivorous children who are addicted to birch-chewing, prefer

these tender yellow-green leaves tinged with red, when newly put

forth in June - "Youngsters" rural New Englanders call them then.

In some sections a kind of tea is steeped from the leaves, which

also furnish the old-fashioned embrocation, wintergreen oil. Late

in the year the glossy bronze carpet of old leaves dotted over

with vivid red "berries" invites much trampling by hungry birds

and beasts, especially deer and bears, not to mention well-fed

humans. Coveys of Bob Whites and packs of grouse will plunge

beneath the snow for fare so delicious as this spicy, mealy fruit

that hangs on the plant till spring, of course for the benefit of

just such colonizing agents as they. Quite a different species,

belonging to another family, bears the true Partridgeberry,

albeit the wintergreen shares with it a number of popular names.

In a strict sense neither of these plants produces a berry; for

the fruit of the true partridge[berry] vine (Mitchella repens) is

a double drupe, or stone bearer, each half containing four hard,

seed-like nutlets; while the wintergreen's so called berry is

merely the calyx grown thick, fleshy, and gaily colored - only a

coating for the five-celled ovary that contains the minute seeds.

Little baskets of wintergreen berries bring none too high prices

in the fancy fruit and grocery shops when we calculate how many

charming plants such unnatural use of them sacrifices.

Closely allied to the wintergreen is the RED BEARBERRY,


variously called (Arctostaphylos-uva-ursi = bearberry). Trailing

its spreading branches over sandy ground, rocky hillsides and

steeps until it sometimes forms luxuriant mats, it closely

resembles its cousin the arbutus in its manner of growth, and has

been mistaken for it by at least one poet. But its tiny, rounded,

urn-shaped flowers, which come in May and June, are white, not

salver form and pink; the entire plant is not rusty-hairy; the

dark little leathery evergreen leaves are spatulate, and,

moreover, it bears small but abundant clusters of round,

berry-like fruit, an attainment the arbutus still struggles for,

but cannot yet reach. Bumblebees are the flower's chief

benefactors. Game fowl, especially grouse, but many other birds

too, and various animals which are glad to add the clusters of

smooth red bearberries to their scanty winter menu, however

insipid and dry they may be, have distributed the seed from

Labrador across Arctic America to Alaska, southward to

Pennsylvania, Illinois, Nebraska, and California. How plants do

compel insects, birds, and beasts to work for them! The entire

plant is astringent, and has been used in medicine; also by

leather dressers.


CREEPING SNOWBERRY CULVER'SROOT CULVER'S PHYSIC facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail