On a south facing bank where the sun had melted away much of the snow, I found a rather large patch of Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), a low, evergreen plant that spreads through slender, underground runners.


Flowers appear on Wintergreen in July and August (as early as May or as late as September, depending on climate).  Once the berries set, they remain on the plant throughout the winter and spring, unless someone finds and eats them…  The young leaves can also be nibbled, or tossed into a salad. It’s a lovely, fresh flavor, and I love finding it in the woods.

Also known as “Eastern Teaberry”, it is found in most states east of the Mississippi.  Other common names include checkerberry, creeping wintergreen, and mountain-tea.

USDA Plant Database Listing - Eastern Teaberry

From the Forest Service site:

White-tailed deer browse wintergreen throughout its range, and in some localities it is an important winter food.  Other animals that eat wintergreen are wild turkey, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, black bear, white-footed mouse, and red fox.  Wintergreen is a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk, and the leaves are a minor winter food of the gray squirrel in Virginia.

By the way, back in January, I posted a photo of Wintergreen, but wasn’t sure what it was.  Two readers, Dave W. and cestoady pointed me in the direction of the correct ID.  So today’s post is for them!  Thanks!

What did you find in the woods today?

8 thoughts on “Wintergreen

  1. Oh montucky… After you said that, I thought I would check the range map (and add it to the post). Turns out, you probably won’t find any…

  2. Very nice follow-up on the earlier post. As for the berries, I have always been disappointed that their flavor( bland ) and consistancy ( punky ) ,does not match their beauty.

  3. It’s always a treat to find wintergreen — I love chewing on the fresh-minty leaves!
    What have I found in the woods? I managed to get out of the city this weekend, and saw a weasel, evidence of a pileated woodpecker and a porcupine, and tracks that I think may belong to a grouse. And it’s so wonderful to hear birdsong again!

  4. This weekend, I had the pleasure of teaching skiing to 2 young skiers from Columbia, South America who were enjoying their SUMMER vacation by visiting ski country! We tramped off trail into the woods to find fresh snow so they could taste it. So what did I find in the woods? Me, who doesn’t speak Spanish, 2 Columbian youngsters, who speak little English, all of us laughing, and wrinkling up our noses at the taste of the snow and enjoying the sunny, cold day.

  5. Thanks for the mention. On Friday our first bloodroot bloomed and toothworts were in bud, sure signs of early spring here in western Virginia. No sign yet of trilliums or bluebells or many of the other wildflowers that will soon emerge.

    Dave Wendelken

  6. The distribution map says I needn’t look for wintergreen. Too bad. Many bloodroot blooming, trout lilies just starting to open and I found my first snake of 2008, a little ringneck.

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