Saturday, April 2, 2011

Wintergreen or Teaberry

This familiar little plant is an evergreen, also called a wintergreen since it stays green all year. It has bright red berries each fall and a few may manage to last until the spring. The berries and leaves are eaten by many animals and birds and also often used by people to make tea or even chew as a sort of gum.
The scientific name for this little plant that is very common in our woodlands is Gaultheria procumbens but you will most likely hear it referred to as Checkerberry, Teaberry or just plain old Wintergreen. If you pick a leaf and break it you will get a great whiff of wintergreen and if you cover a few tablespoons of fresh leaves with boiling water and let steep for about 10 or 15 minutes you will have a delightful tea. You can also chew the leaves like a gum to sweeten your breath if you like. The berries won't harm you but are sort of waxy, at least to my taste. In the spring these plants will have new leaves and will put forth small white bell like blossoms.

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