Wintergreen (also known as Creeping Wintergreen, Checkerberry and Teaberry) is a low growing evergreen shrub, spreading on rhizomes to form a dense groundcover in shady spots. Related to the NZ native Snowberry (Gaultheria antipoda), wintergreen’s native habitat is Eastern North America where it grows in slightly acidic soil under oak and evergreen trees. However it can cope with deep to part shade, very moist (not boggy) to quite dry soils, neutral to very acidic soils, and frost to -35 degrees C, so it really is quite adaptable. It has glossy green leaves, which have a red tinge in autumn. Young leaves are edible in small quantities (but caution is advised – they can irritate the stomach) and are perhaps better made into a pleasant tea. They were used medicinally by Native American Indians to ease headache, fever, sore throats and other aches and pains and to aid breathing during physical exertion. The therapeutic effects are due to methyl salicylate in the leaves, which is closely related to aspirin and is a proven effective anti-inflammatory, as well as being analgesic, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue, stimulant and tonic. However it can be toxic in large doses and should not be used by children or those allergic to aspirin. ‘Oil of wintergreen’ can be distilled from the leaves. Wintergreen has dainty bell shaped white flowers, sometimes tinged with pink, followed by edible berries in Autumn, which are said to be best after a frost. We have eaten them; they are pleasant but have a very strong taste of germolene antiseptic cream or root beer, if you are familiar with either of those! They can be eaten raw or made into jams and pies etc. In the U.S. wintergreen is a common flavoring in products such as chewing gum, mints, lollies, dental hygiene products such as mouthwash and toothpaste, and of course root beer. Wintergreen grows to a height 10-20cm and spread of up to 1m and is a useful groundcover for shady spots.
Plants are supplied in 11cm pots and are certified organic.
Photos from LGPL, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=469001 and https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gaultheria_procumbens_6049.JPG, Photos of potted plants – Kahikatea Farm