Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Northeast Wetland Flora
Field Office Guide to Plant Species
Gaultheria procumbens L.
- Family: Heath (Ericaceae)
- Flowering: July-August
- Field Marks: This creeping shrublet is distinguished by its small elliptic, leathery leaves, its
wintergreen odor, and its red fruits.
- Habitat: Woods.
- Habit: Creeping shrublet with ascending flowering branches.
- Stems: Flowering branches ascending, smooth, slender, up to 6 inches tall.
- Leaves: Alternate, simple, evergreen, leathery, elliptic, tapering or rounded at the tip, tapering to the base, minutely toothed near the tip, up to 2 1/2 inches long, scented with wintergreen.
- Flowers: Solitary or in short racemes from the axils of the leaves, nodding, more or less white, each flower subtended by a pair of small bracts which are appressed to the sepals and another solitary bract elsewhere on the flower stalk.
- Sepals: 5, white, united at the base to form a saucer.
- Petals: 5, white, bell-shaped, up to 1/2 inch long.
- Stamens: 8 or 10, not exserted beyond the petals.
- Pistils: Ovary superior or partly inferior.
- Fruits: Berry-like capsule surrounded by the fleshy sepals, soft, red, up to 1/2 inch in diameter, tasting of wintergreen.
- Notes: This species was the original source of wintergreen. The fruits are eaten by wild turkey and ruffed grouse, while the young branchlets and leaves are eaten by deer and black bear.
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