Wintergreen Gaultheria procumbens
Family: Ericaceae (Heath)
Branching: Alternate / Evergreen

This is a very short shrub, no more than a couple inches tall.  It has somewhat leathery elliptical leaves of somewhat varying size (usually a few on each plant), and when crushed these have a powerful aroma of wintergreen.  In the winter, they are only visible in places of little or no snowfall as they are so small.  But in such places they stand out as they are often the greenest thing on the ground (though they are not as bright a green in the winter and are often reddish).  They look somewhat similar to Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis) which can also be seen in the winter.  However, Bunchberry is not actually evergreen (though its discoloured leaves are often still seen in the winter) and the leaves have parallel veins like other Dogwoods.   The scent test is a very easy identification and the smell itself is very refreshing!

Typical appearance of Wintergreen.

A closer view of the leaves

Underneath the leaves, where the fruits had grown

A crushed Wintergreen leaf has a wonderful and refreshing smell

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copyright 2008 Josh Sayers
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