Pipsissewa Plant Info: Uses And Care Of Pipsissewa In The Garden

Pipsissewa Plant Info: Uses And Care Of Pipsissewa In The Garden



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By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

Also known as striped and spotted wintergreen, Pipsissewa (Chimaphila maculata) is a low-growing plant distinguished by nodding, pale pink or waxy white blooms and forest-green foliage decorated with contrasting, creamy white stripes. This charming woodland plant isn’t difficult to grow and care of Pipssisewa plants is simple. Read on for more Pipsissewa plant info.

Growing Pipsissewa Plants

Pipsissewa plants are often gathered in the wild. Do your research first; the plants are vulnerable in some areas and may be protected by law. If harvesting Pipsissewa in the wild is acceptable, dig the rhizomes carefully from a large, healthy population. Take care not to disturb or trample the plant. If you’re lucky enough to have a friend with extra plants, you can easily start your own plants without threatening the native population.

You can also propagate Pipsissewa plants by taking cuttings in June or by planting ripe seeds. The latter may not be the best option, however, as seeds often fail to germinate. If you decide to try propagation by seed, plant the seeds in moist peat moss mixed with a small amount of soil gathered from the area around the plant. With cuttings, it’s best to grow using some of the same planting medium from where it came, as the plant shares a mycorrhiza relationship for uptake of water and nutrients, and this will increase your chances of success.

Pipsissewa Uses in the Garden

Pipsissewa is a welcome addition to a wildflower or woodland garden, or as a ground cover in semi-shady areas. These plants also enjoy humus-rich soil similar to that found in wooded areas.

Additionally, Pipsissewa leaves are edible and are often enjoyed for their crisp, refreshing texture, or brewed as tea, making them great additions for tea gardens too – as a word of caution, Pipsissewa wintergreen plants should not be confused with the wintergreen plant, Gaultheria procumbens.

Care of Pipsissewa Plants

Care of Pipsissewa plants involves keeping the soil relatively moist, as the plant doesn’t tolerate dry soil. Otherwise, this fuss-free little plant will grow for many years with no particular effort on your part.

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To Love Winter: Striped Wintergreen

It may be winter in the northern hemisphere (at least some days), but there is still plenty to see if you go for a walk in the woods. Some plants may be easier to spot in winter than they are during the growing season, because they have less competition for light, and for your attention. Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is one of those plants. Striped Wintergreen can be seen in woodlands, skimming just above the fallen leaves.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) in fruit

A clue that winter is the perfect time to look for this plant is found in the translation of its genus, ‘Chimaphila’, whose origins are the Greek words ‘cheima’, which means ‘winter’ and ‘phileo’, which translates as ‘to love’. Plants of this genus are named for their love of winter.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

Why do they love winter? Striped Wintergreen is an evergreen perennial of the forest understory, growing to a height of about 4 – 12 inches (10 – 30 cm). Somewhat woody at the base of the stem, botanists classify this species as a shrub or subshrub. Its green and white striped leaves make it easy to spot in the winter months when leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees and shrubs that tower over this diminutive plant. During the growing season, its taller neighbors often obscure Striped Wintergreen from view, as well as from the sun’s rays. But throughout winter, Striped Wintergreen’s evergreen leaves have unfettered access to the sun’s energy. They can photosynthesize, store the energy, and make it available to support Striped Wintergreen’s summertime reproductive efforts.

Striped Wintergreen is known by many other aliases (common names), including Spotted Wintergreen, Pipsissewa, and Rheumatism Root. Some of these names refer to the medicinal uses of this plant. Striped Wintergreen contains chemical compounds with antiseptic, antibacterial, and astringent properties, among others. One of the compounds, ursolic acid, is effective in treating arthritis and other causes of pain and inflammation. Striped Wintergreen and a close relative that is also called Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) have been used to treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones. The name Pipsissewa is derived from a Creek Native American word that means ‘to break into small pieces’, referring to stones in the urinary tract.

Is it just lucky happenstance that Striped Wintergreen contains compounds that have beneficial medicinal effects for humans? Not completely. Striped Wintergreen faces some of the same pressures that humans do from bacteria, fungi and microbes, all of which are present in the thousands in the fallen leaves with which Striped Wintergreen lives, and that are working to break down the leaves until they become the next layer of nutrient-filled soil. Striped Wintergreen has evolved to produce chemical compounds to protect itself from this efficient recycling team surrounding it. What is lucky for us is that these chemical constituents also have a positive effect in human bodies.

Striped Wintergreen blooms in summer, usually sometime from June through August.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) in bloom. Fruit capsule from previous season is visible on the left.

When fully open, the flowers with their recurved petals resemble crowns, a possible explanation for another common name for this plant, Striped Prince’s Pine.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) flower. Notice its resemblance to a tiny crown.

Striped Wintergreen’s primary pollinators are Bumble Bees (Bombus species), but Honey Bees (Apis mellifera) may also be enticed by nectar to visit the flowers. If the bees help Striped Wintergreen successfully achieve pollination, the resulting fruit is visible throughout the winter. These dry fruit capsules look like tiny turbans, or miniature winter squash split open at the seams to release the seeds inside.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) fruit capsules.

The chemical compounds present in Striped Wintergreen, along with leathery, waxy-coated leaves, are generally effective in deterring herbivores. Deer don’t typically browse this plant, even though it’s one of only a few that are green in the winter. But the photo below shows that someone, probably a Leaf-cutter Bee (Megachile species), has figured out a way to use parts of the leaves. Leaf-cutter bees harvest regularly-shaped oval, circular or semi-circular pieces of leaves to construct cells in their nests.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) with semi-circles removed from the leaf edges, probably by a Leaf-cutter Bee.

Striped Wintergreen’s native range is the eastern third of the United States, north to a few locations in southern Ontario and Quebec provinces in Canada. It’s rare at the edges of its range, and is listed as endangered in Illinois, Maine, Ontario and Quebec, and exploitably vulnerable in New York state.

Experience some ‘Winter Love’ (another common name for Chimaphila maculata). Look for Striped Wintergreen in winter, and you’ll know where to find it during the summer months when it’s in bloom.

Striped Wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) in bloom.

More Reasons to Love Winter

Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Pipsissewa. From Planting the Future, Saving Our Medicinal Herbs, edited by Gladstar, Rosemary and Hirsch, Pamela. 2000.

Eaton, Eric R. Kauffman, Ken. Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. 2007.

Eiseman, Charley Charney, Noah. Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates. 2010.

Foster, Steven Duke, James A. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America. 2000.

Martin, Laura C. Wildflower Folklore. 1984.

Rhoads, Ann Fowler Block, Timothy A. The Plants of Pennsylvania. 2007


Wintergreens of the Sheltered Woodlands

IN midsummer, the sun scarcely touches the forest floor. The woods are darker. Bright splashes of color from spring's early flowers have gone and subtle shades abound. These are small berries of Canada mayflower and false Solomon's seal, those of red and white baneberry, cucumber root and Clintonia, the tight cluster of Jack‐in the‐pulpit, and the single, larger berries ?? trilliums.

Look closely in the shaded summer woods for the family of wintergreens, plants which keep their leaves through winter. Pipsissewa or prince's pine, spotted wintergreen, shin‐leaf, round leaved pyrola and one‐flowered winter green are those commonly found. The family also includes saprophytes, Indian pipe, pinesap and pine‐drops which have no leaves and live off decaying matter in the soil. Wintergreen rarely grows taller than a foot in height. The one‐ flowered wintergreen, smallest of the clan, is only two to four inches tall. Pine‐drops, which is quite rare, is an ex ception and grows to three feet, attest ing to its alternate name, giant bird' nest.

Pipsissewa and spotted wintergreen grow in dry pine woods, where years of fallen needles have formed an acid humus. Though small, their shiny green leaves stand out quickly against the brown needles. Normally they grow in small colonies, but not grouped together. Pipsissewa and spotted wintergreen strongly resemble each other in leaf and flower. The sterns are underground and leaves are in whorls. Those of the spot ted wintergreen have white stripes along the veins. Not all branches bear flowers, but those that do send up an erect stalk which supports several waxy white or pink blossoms that hang face down.

Shin‐leaf and the round‐leaved pyrola also look alike. They are found in dry woods and in some moist sites. Mixed woods such as ash, maple, oak and hick ory, as well as pines, suit them or they are often in the company of tall cinna mon and interrupted ferns.

The leaves of shin‐leaf are elliptic or paddle‐shaped, those of pyrola are round. In both, the leaves grow in ro settes at the base of the plant. The flower stalk is erect, and the nodding white flowers grow in a long cluster or raceme along the stalk. There are several other pyrolas, not quite as common, all of which are recognizable because of similar characteristics.

Because it is so small, the one‐flowered wintergreen is probably passed by more often than it is seen. It would not take a very deep fall of oak leaves, or thick patch of grass to hide it completely. The single flower resembles that of pip sissewa and round leaves grow at the plant's base. It too may be found in wetter ground, even in shaded bogs.

The saprophytic members of the win tergreen family are most widely repre sented by Indian pipe, a favorite with children because of its strange appear ance. Lacking chlorophyl, it is entirely white, but blackens as it ages or is picked.

Pinesap, also without chlorophyll, re sembles Indian pipe, but bears several drooping flowers on each stem. Its color ranges from buff and yellow to red, and generally grows over the roots of pines and oaks, on which it usually feeds.

Ironically, members of the wintergreen family do not have the taste of winter green. That is found in the small, re lated plant of the heath family known variously as wintergreen, teaberry or checkerberry. This plant is found grow ing with its near relatives and its shiny, leathery leaves have a pleasant taste when bitten into or chewed. White, bell‐shaped flowers are hidden beneath the leaves. The plant may have been a source of oil of wintergreen, but until the, flavor was manufactured syntheti cally, the oil was more commonly dis tilled from the twigs and inner bark of the black sweet birch.

Except for the saprophytes, all spe cies in the wintergreen family can be transplanted to the home garden if con ditions are suitable. They need full shade, rich, preferably acid soil, and for the pyrolas, moist but not wet ground. Plants for wild flower gardens are available from several mail‐order nurseries specializing in native plants.


Striped And Spotted Wintergreen - Learn About Growing Pipsissewa Plants In Gardens - garden

Dig deeper at SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria.

Spermatophytes (seed plants): Angiosperms (flowering plants): Eudicots: Core Eudicots: Asterids: Ericales

SYNONYMOUS WITH PLANTS NATIONAL DATABASE:
Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Pyrolaceae

SYNONYMOUS WITH VASCULAR FLORA OF THE CAROLINAS (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968) 145-01-001:
Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Ericaceae

COMMON NAME:
Pipsissewa, Striped Wintergreen, Spotted Wintergreen

Look for it in forests & woodlands, mostly rather xeric & acid, per Weakley's Flora

Native to the Carolinas & Georgia
Documented growing wild in GA NC SC

LEAVES:
Evergreen
Simple
Alternate

FLOWER:
Spring/Summer
White
Bisexual
Radially symmetrical
5 sepals
5 petals
10 stamens
Superior ovary

TO LEARN MORE about this plant, look it up in a good book!

Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Ericaceae

Pipsissewa, Striped Wintergreen, Spotted Wintergreen

Dig deeper at SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria.

Click the thumbnails to see larger pictures.

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913 pnd_chma3_001_lvd

Steve Marlow snm079901_09

January Haywood County NC

Corneille Bryan Native Garden

An acid soil indicator plant which grows at a pH of about 4.5, per Corneille Bryan Native Garden.

Roxanna Martin rlm21911_194

February Spartanburg County SC

Capsule subglobose, splitting on the sutures from the apex to the base, per Vascular Flora of the Carolinas.

Steve Marlow snm160531_041

Roxanna Martin rlm6410_345

June Spartanburg County SC

The 5 petals are white or pinkish the stigma is rounded and green, per Wildflowers of Tennessee.

Roxanna Martin rlm6610_349

June Spartanburg County SC

Roxanna Martin rlm6610_351

June Spartanburg County SC

10 stamens each with a pair of conspicuous tubular anthers, per Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains.

Richard and Teresa Ware rtw_chimaphila_maculata_c

Small clusters of nodding waxy flowers at the top of the plant, per Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.

Tim Spira tps_cmaculalta5

July Greenville County SC

Leaves widest near the base with large distant teeth along the margins, per Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains.

Keith Bradley kab_c_maculata_1073

Roxanna Martin rlm7210_264

July Spartanburg County SC

Although the flowers nod, the fruit capsule is erect, per Wildflowers of Tennessee.

"While the farmer holds the title to the land, actually, it belongs to all the people because civilization itself rests upon the soil." — Thomas Jefferson


No supplemental fertilizer is necessary for wintergreen plants. These native plants are adapted to grow in areas with poor soil lacking in nutrients. One way they compensate for low soil nutrition is by keeping their leaves from the previous season, conserving the energy it takes to grow new foliage.

Grow your potted wintergreen plant in a mix of peat and sand, which will mimic the drainage and acidity the plants prefer. When you see roots coming from the drainage hole of the container, it's time to repot.


Striped And Spotted Wintergreen - Learn About Growing Pipsissewa Plants In Gardens - garden

Dig deeper at SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria.

Spermatophytes (seed plants): Angiosperms (flowering plants): Eudicots: Core Eudicots: Asterids: Ericales

SYNONYMOUS WITH PLANTS NATIONAL DATABASE:
Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Pyrolaceae

SYNONYMOUS WITH VASCULAR FLORA OF THE CAROLINAS (Radford, Ahles, & Bell, 1968) 145-01-001:
Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Ericaceae

COMMON NAME:
Pipsissewa, Striped Wintergreen, Spotted Wintergreen

Look for it in forests & woodlands, mostly rather xeric & acid, per Weakley's Flora

Native to the Carolinas & Georgia
Documented growing wild in GA NC SC

LEAVES:
Evergreen
Simple
Alternate

FLOWER:
Spring/Summer
White
Bisexual
Radially symmetrical
5 sepals
5 petals
10 stamens
Superior ovary

TO LEARN MORE about this plant, look it up in a good book!

Chimaphila maculata FAMILY Ericaceae

Pipsissewa, Striped Wintergreen, Spotted Wintergreen

Dig deeper at SERNEC, a consortium of southeastern herbaria.

Click the thumbnails to see larger pictures.

USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Britton, N.L., and A. Brown. 1913 pnd_chma3_001_lvd

Steve Marlow snm079901_09

January Haywood County NC

Corneille Bryan Native Garden

An acid soil indicator plant which grows at a pH of about 4.5, per Corneille Bryan Native Garden.

Roxanna Martin rlm21911_194

February Spartanburg County SC

Capsule subglobose, splitting on the sutures from the apex to the base, per Vascular Flora of the Carolinas.

Steve Marlow snm160531_041

Roxanna Martin rlm6410_345

June Spartanburg County SC

The 5 petals are white or pinkish the stigma is rounded and green, per Wildflowers of Tennessee.

Roxanna Martin rlm6610_349

June Spartanburg County SC

Roxanna Martin rlm6610_351

June Spartanburg County SC

10 stamens each with a pair of conspicuous tubular anthers, per Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains.

Richard and Teresa Ware rtw_chimaphila_maculata_c

Small clusters of nodding waxy flowers at the top of the plant, per Wildflowers of Tennessee, the Ohio Valley, and the Southern Appalachians.

Tim Spira tps_cmaculalta5

July Greenville County SC

Leaves widest near the base with large distant teeth along the margins, per Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains.

Keith Bradley kab_c_maculata_1073

Roxanna Martin rlm7210_264

July Spartanburg County SC

Although the flowers nod, the fruit capsule is erect, per Wildflowers of Tennessee.

"There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew." — Marshall McLuhan


Striped And Spotted Wintergreen - Learn About Growing Pipsissewa Plants In Gardens - garden

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Watch the video: Guardian556: Pipsissewa