Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gaultheria procumbens

I just love this plant, though it is really hard to grow. It will go along well for awhile and then suddenly die (at least in my garden). I finally found a semi-shady spot where it had formed a large clump - and then a rabbit ate it off to the ground over the winter and it never came back. I've ordered a bunch of it for this year and will try again. We've been using Milorganite as a fertilizer/rabbit and deer repellent and that seems to be working.
Besides being a pretty garden plant - shiny evergreen leaves, white flowers, red berries - it is also listed in my medicinal plant book. Teaberry, Partridgeberry, Boxberry, Checkerberry, Wintergreen, Pigeon Berry and other are common names. I had always known it as wintergreen, though true wintergreen is another plant all together and I wrote about it awhile back. It is often found in the wild in the areas where rhododendron and laurel grow. It flowers in July and the berries persist over the winter, or until eaten. The leaves contain oil of wintergreen which is extracted through distillation. The active ingredient is methyl salicylate. It is considered valuable as a tonic, stimulant, astringent and aromatic, and the extracted oil is used to treat rheumatism. This is hardly a home remedy because of the equipment needed to process the leaves. It is most often used now as a flavoring to cover up undesirable flavors.
This is certainly a plant worth growing, especially because it gives some green in the garden in the winter when it is definitely lacking, especially in the perennial beds. Just be sure to protect it from the bunnies.

1 comment:

keewee said...

That is a pretty little plant. Too bad the rabbits enjoy it too.