AskDefine | Define wintergreen

The Collaborative Dictionary

Wintergreen \Win"ter*green`\, n. (Bot.) A plant which keeps its leaves green through the winter. [1913 Webster] Note: In England, the name wintergreen is applied to the species of Pyrola which in America are called English wintergreen, and shin leaf (see Shin leaf, under Shin.) In America, the name wintergreen is given to Gaultheria procumbens, a low evergreen aromatic plant with oval leaves clustered at the top of a short stem, and bearing small white flowers followed by red berries; -- called also checkerberry, and sometimes, though improperly, partridge berry. [1913 Webster] Chickweed wintergreen, a low perennial primulaceous herb (Trientalis Americana); -- also called star flower. Flowering wintergreen, a low plant (Polygala paucifolia) with leaves somewhat like those of the wintergreen (Gaultheria), and bearing a few showy, rose-purple blossoms. oil of wintergreen, An aromatic oil, consisting almost entirely of methyl salicylate (CH3CO.O.C6H4.OH), obtained by distillation of an extract of the wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens); it can also be obtained from some other plants. It is used as a flavoring agent for tooth powders and pastes, sometimes combined with menthol or eucalyptus. It is called also oil of teaberry, oil of partridgeberry, and oil of gaultheria. Spotted wintergreen, a low evergreen plant (Chimaphila maculata) with ovate, white-spotted leaves. [1913 Webster + PJC]

Word Net



1 any of several evergreen perennials of the genus Pyrola [syn: pyrola]
2 creeping shrub of eastern North America having white bell-shaped flowers followed by spicy red berrylike fruit and shiny aromatic leaves that yield wintergreen oil [syn: teaberry, checkerberry, mountain tea, groundberry, ground-berry, creeping wintergreen, Gaultheria procumbens]
3 spicy red berrylike fruit; source of wintergreen oil [syn: boxberry, checkerberry, teaberry, spiceberry]



  1. Any evergreen plant.
  2. Any of several evergreen perennials of the genus Pyrola
  3. A North American creeping evergreen plant, Gaultheria procumbens, having solitary white flowers and aromatic leaves; the checkerberry or teaberry
  4. The spicy red berries of this plant
  5. The oil, methyl salicylate, obtained from these berries
  6. The aroma of the oil, methyl salicylate, however derived.
Wintergreen is a group of plants. Wintergreen once commonly referred to plants that continue photosynthesis (remain green) throughout the winter. The term evergreen is now more commonly used for this characteristic.
Some species of the shrub genus Gaultheria in the closely related family Ericaceae also demonstrate this characteristic and are called wintergreens in North America, the most common generally being the Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens). Several genera of herbaceous plants in the family Pyrolaceae, notably Pyrola, Orthilia, Moneses and Chimaphila, demonstrate this characteristic and are also called wintergreens.
Some species of the herbaceous genus Trientalis in the unrelated family Primulaceae are known as 'Chickweed Wintergreen'.

Oil of wintergreen

The Gaultheria species share the common characteristic of producing oil of wintergreen (methyl salicylate), which gives plants a distinctive 'medicinal' smell when bruised. Some species of birch also produce oil of wintergreen, but these deciduous trees are not called wintergreens.
wintergreen in Danish: Vintergrøn
wintergreen in Norwegian: Vintergrønn
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