One-sided Wintergreen

One-sided wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) is a circumboreal, native perennial growing in much of the northern Northern Hemisphere. In North America it can be found in all the states except those in the south east and  south central portions of the United States. The ecology of one-sided wintergreen is dry to moist coniferous forests in low to subalpine elevations.

One-sided wintergreen has a single stem arising from slender, branching rhizomes. The stem is erect then arches at the end. Most of the oval leaves are basal but there are a few leaves on the lower part of the stem. The evergreen leaves are toothed and shiny. Cold-hardy, the leaves remain throughout the winter (are evergreen).

The one-sided wintergreen inflorescence is an elongated cluster with the flowers all directed to one side of the stem. The bell-shaped, nodding, waxy flowers are stalked and have five white to greenish petals and ten stamens. The straight style projects beyond the flower.

A spherical, five-chambered capsule (fruit) contains numerous, minute seeds.

One-sided wintergreen is the only species in the genus, Orthilia. This genus name comes from Greek and means “straight spiral”, referring to the one sided-inflorescence. The style shape may also be the straight (“ortho”)  referenced in the genus name according to another reference. Pyrola secunda is a synonym for O. secunda. Other common names for one-sided wintergreen are shinleaf, side-bells and side-bells wintergreen.

One-sided wintergreen leaves contain acids that are effective in treating skin eruptions. Native Americans used poultices of the leaves for snake and insect bites.

These one-sided wintergreen specimens were photographed in August along the Summit Lake Trail in Lassen Volcanic National Park CA.

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