They Are Where They Eat: Wintergreen


Wintergreen or Gaultheria procumbens) is a wildflower native to eastern North America. It grows throughout  the northeast and south all the way to Georgia. Wintergreen is also called eastern teaberry or checkerberry. It's a small plant that grows low to the ground with ovate leaves that appear to grow thickly in groups of three or four. However, the plant is also known to be sparse.
The plant produces small white or pale pink flowers that hang from the base of the leaves.
After the plant blooms it begins to produce bright red berries which make it famous as a holiday plant as the berries may linger through the winter. Usually when you get near the stuff you can smell it. Its pretty pungent.

It thrives in shady woods and sandy soil which makes it an ideal plant for the northwoods. Its known to be common throughout the northern part of New England and southern Canada.
Photo from the Green Pharmacy Garden
Wintergreen is not generally considered to be a major source of food for most wildlife but in the winter it can be one of the only sources of green leafy food depending on locale. If the plants maintain their berries throughout the winter, which they are more than capable of, than its becomes much more important to wildlife. Its known that where deer populations are high, they can take a toll on wintergreen as a food source for grouse, with that said, there isn't much data to back that claim up, but it does make sense. I can tell you that in my home coverts, I find the stuff in margin covers, which happen to be great cover, I've also pulled quite a few berries from crops along with the leafy greens. Wintergreen is very easy to identify in a crop because it releases its trademark scent when crushed.

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