wintergreen or checkerberry, low evergreen plant ( Gaultheria procumbens ) of the family Ericaceae ( heath family), native to sandy and acid woods (usually of evergreens) of E North America and frequently cultivated. It has a creeping stem, erect branches, glossy, oval leaves, and small, waxy, white flowers followed by crimson fruits. The aromatic leaves and fruits are edible; the leaves are a source of wintergreen oil (now mostly obtained from the sweet, or black, birch, Betula lenta, or synthetically). The oil is used in medicine and as a flavoring. A tea has often been made from the leaves, whence two of the many names of the plant, mountain tea and teaberry. There are other species of Gaultheria found in W America and elsewhere; one of these, G. shallon, is called salal or shallon. Some pipsissewa species, of the family Pyrolaceae, are sometimes called wintergreen. True wintergreen is classified in the division Magnoliophyta , class Magnoliopsida, order Ericales, family Ericaceae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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