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Wintergreen (Teaberry; Checkerberry; Ground Holly) (Gaultheria procumbens)

The wintergreen is a very small plant that snuggles on the forest floor. It is an evergreen plant, viz., unlike most it does not drop its leaves in the autumn; they are impervious to the freezing winters of Nova Scotia. The colour of the mature leaves, small though they are, stand out on the forest floor like holly. To have a good look one should get down on their hands and knees, or lie out on the surrounding moss. This small plant has three to six leaves on a short woody stem. They are small and they are "leathery, stiff and glossy." The young leaves are a light green and darken as the season progresses. The small flowers are white and bell shaped; they tend to droop downward from their short curved stocks; they have five petals. They develop into bright red berries with a short prickle at their end. The berries mature late in the summer and both the berries and the leaves last through the winter. The wintergreen is common throughout Nova Scotia liking moist and acidic soil; look for wintergreen in barrens, woods, and on coastal headlands.
Edibility: A tea may be made from the fresh or dried leaves. For each cup use about ten leaves (cut into smaller pieces) and steep. The berries can be eaten raw or made into a pie, or a jam or a jelly. Like the leaves the berries can be used anytime of the year. (See McLeod, p. 110, for recipes.)

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Peter Landry

(2011)