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.