Teaberry, Checkerberry, or Wintergreen

Gaultheria procumbens

The shiny leaves of teaberry aka checkerberry or wintergreen, are a common view throughout pine barrens and in Alper Preserve. Its short leafy shoots grow upright from underground horizontal stems—rhizomes. The nice groundcover stays green year round, and its tenaceous, bright red, flavorful fruits last though the winter and well into the next spring, tasting their best on a winter walk. The fruit looks like a berry, though this is actually a fleshy capsule. If you dare to munch a couple, you will recognize the special flavor of wintergreen chewing gum. In fact wintergreen had been used for chewing gum before the synthetic flavor was developed. Be sure to leave some for wildlife. This is a favorite of white-footed mice, chipmunks, and grouse. Deer may also go for wintergreen. The leaves were once popular for making a tea; if you want to try, take just one or two leaves from each upright stalk.

See all photos for this species at salicicola.com

Flowering. July 24

October 16, Plymouth

December 11, Myles Standish SF, Plymouth

In spring the capsules often split. May 13

Fruits of previous season, June 7, Plymouth