The Wintergreen plant provides flowers, fruit and foliage for a constantly changing display that catches your attention throughout the year. Leaves and berries are aromatic!
Wintergreen is a rhizomatous, creeping, woody, evergreen groundcover of the heath family that is native to woodlands in Eastern North America (Newfoundland to Manitoba south to Minnesota, Tennessee, Virginia and in the mountains to Georgia and Alabama). Plants will spread over time to form an attractive ground cover. Waxy, nodding, bell-shaped, white flowers bloom in early summer and the flowers give way to edible bright red berries that persist through winter. Leaves and fruit have the aroma and taste of wintergreen. Berries are an excellent winter food for some wildlife such as pheasant, grouse, squirrels and deer.
Foliage was once used to make oil of wintergreen which has astringent, stimulant and diuretic properties. Wintergreen has been a popular flavouring for chewing gum, candies and toothpaste. Leaves were once made into poultices for arthritic pain and sore muscles. Fruits may be eaten raw or added to pastries and salads. Gaultheria honours Jean-Francois Gaultier (1708-1756) who was the king's physician in the French colony of Quebec from 1742 until 1756 plus an avid botanist and plant collector. Best grown in organically rich, evenly moist, acidic, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Established plants tolerate some dry soils. Plants perform best in climates with cool summers. Excellent ground cover for shady areas, woodland gardens, rock gardens, foundations or native plant areas.
Watch the Botanus Garden Club video about Ground Covers including Gaultheria procumbens!