Friends of Myles Standish State Forest

East Head Reservoir Eco Tour

 

 

Wintergreen

Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is also called also called checkerberry, or teaberry. As you walk along look for a small, green, sparse ground cover, which is very common on the forest floor. One way to find it is to look for brilliant red berries, as in the image below. Wintergreen is green all year round, except every autumn some of the older leaves turn a beautiful bronze color before falling an inch to the forest floor. Can you spot a few bronze colored leaves in the picture?

Wintergreen on East Head Trail - Charlie Pye

The genus Gaultheria was named for Jean-Fran├žois Gaultier, a naturalist and physician in Quebec in the mid-18th century.┬áThe species name procumbens is derived from the Latin verb procumbo, which means to fall prostrate, a reference to the prostrate habit of the plant. Wintergreen is often found growing in the shade on the forest floor in well drained soils and more often under deciduous trees than pines.

Pick and crush a leaf. Smell the wintergreen oil released. Wintergreen oil has astringent, stimulant and diuretic properties. It has been used as a popular flavoring for chewing gum (Teaberry), candies and toothpaste. Dried leaves can be used to make an interesting tea, but this usage is no longer recommended. Leaves were once made into poultices for arthritic pain and to ease sore muscles. Fruits may be eaten raw or added to pastries and salads.