By William T. Hathaway

Teaberry or Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

The Teaberry or Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens) is a small evergreen shrub with creeping stems that often form small colonies. Little white flowers appear in April and May. Pulpy red berries usually persist through the winter months.

These berries with their spicy, evergreen taste are edible. An extract from the berries is used to flavor many commercial products. The plant prefers sandy, woodland habitats in the mountains and coastal plains. Although it is rare in the Piedmont, two plant sites were found in the Country Club woods in Danville, Virginia, just south of the old clubhouse. I photographed this teaberry growing alongside a cut pine stump.

The north-facing woodland slopes at this site are mountain-like with slightly cooler average yearly temperatures. This is a rare local shrub.