While walking through the woods Saturday afternoon, I came upon a patch of vibrantly green wintergreen plants adorned with red berries. The diminutive plant adds a nice touch of green amid the greys and browns of the forest floor. Wintergreen can be identified by its easily recognized fragrance. The minty flavor of wintergreen is popular in gum and candy.
“Wintergreen berries, from Gaultheria procumbens, are used medicinally. Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat, and various aches and pains. These therapeutic effects likely arose because the primary metabolite of methyl salicylate is salicylic acid, a proven NSAID that is also the metabolite of acetylsalicylic acid, commonly known as aspirin. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for tea, which was scarce”. ~ Wikipedia
* Care must be taken in the use of wintergreen. Taken improperly, or in large doses, the plant is toxic.
“IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : Wintergreen is not taken in large quantities by any species of wildlife, but the regularity of its use enhances its importance. Its fruit persists through the winter and it is one of the few sources of green leaves in winter. White-tailed deer browse wintergreen throughout its range, and in some localities it is an important winter food. Other animals that eat wintergreen are wild turkey, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, black bear, white-footed mouse, and red fox. Wintergreen is a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk, and the leaves are a minor winter food of the gray squirrel in Virginia.”
~ US Dept. of Agriculture