Gardening should engage all the senses. The fragrance of wintergreen is one of my all-time favorite scents and it can be found in the garden. Gaultheria procumbens, also commonly known as wintergreen and teaberry, is a feast for the eyes with its beautiful red “berries” and shiny evergreen leaves, as well as a feast for the nose when its fruit is pried opened or leaves are torn. I enjoy sharing the fragrance with novice gardeners. They always look a little skeptical when I tear a leaf and encourage them to take a sniff, but they also are always pleasantly surprised!
Gaultheria procumbensis a native of eastern North America (and interestingly, it’s a member of the heath family of plants). According to Mr. Hyman, the common name in Quebec is la petite thé du bois or “little tea of the woods.” Don’t you love it! The article goes on to say that Native Americans used the leaves as a medicinal tea because of its anti-inflammatory characteristics.
It’s a small, low growing evergreen shrub that seldom grows taller than five inches. It likes woodland conditions, but fruits best in sunnier locations. The berry-like fruit is actually a dry capsule surrounded by fleshy calyx.