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American Wintergreen, Round-leaved Pyrola, Rounded Shinleaf - Pyrola americana


Family: Ericaceae - Heath family Genus Common Name: Wintergreen, Shinleaf Native Status: NativeDicot Perennial Subshrub
Pyrola americana - American Wintergreen, Round-leaved Pyrola, Rounded Shinleaf. There are about 30 species in the Pyrola genus, with about 7 in North America. Some authorities classify Pyrola and several closely related genera in Pyrolaceae - the Wintergreen or Shinleaf family. However, most recent studies have concluded that Pyrolaceae should be returned to Ericaceae.

This plant - Pyrola americana - is considered by some authorities to be the same species as the Eurasian P. rotundifolia, while others have classified it as a subspecies to P. asarifolia (ssp. americana.) Most authorities agree that the classification is worthy of further study, while for now classifying it as a separate species. It is a subshrub of forests and bogs of primarily the northeastern quadrant of the United States south to Tennessee and North Carolina, and in eastern Canada. It is protected in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee.

The leaves of this genus contain a compound similar to aspirin, and have been used to make a poultice to relieve pain from bruises and wounds. This poultice was called shinplaster, yielding the Shinleaf common name.

Found in:
CT, DC, DE, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, NC, NH, NJ, NY, OH, PA, RI, SD, TN, VA, VT, WI, WV
Pyrola americana

Distribution of Pyrola americana in the United States and Canada:
USDA Plants Distribution Map temporarily unavailable.
Blue=Native; Grey=Introduced

Map from USDA Plants Database:
USDA, NRCS. 2017. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 13 Dec 2017). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.

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Site: Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA Date: 2017-August-02Photographer: Gerald C. Williamson
Nikon D7000
Tamron SP 90MM f/2.8 AF Macro
The inflorescence of Pyrola americana is a raceme of up to 22 nodding flowers with white (sometimes tinged with pink) flowers on a single flowering stalk which is up to about a foot tall. The pedicels are subtended by a lanceolate bract shorter than the pedicel. When I first saw these I was looking at some Rattlesnake Plantain Orchid and at a glance (from a distance) thought that these were more, but I did a double-take because they looked different. When I got closer, clearly the flowers indicated something other than Orchidaceae.
Pyrola americana

Site: Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA Date: 2017-August-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The flower of American Wintergreen has 10 yellow to brown stamens, usually contained the upper petals. The green pistil is strongly exserted from the flower.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Pyrola americana

Site: Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA Date: 2017-August-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Among the diagnostic characteristics of Pyrola is the shape of the calyx lobes. The calyx lobes of Pyrola americana are longer than wide, vs. two others with similar distribution - P. elliptica and P. chlorantha - which have calyx lobes about as wide as long. The margins of all three species may be hyaline to white.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Pyrola americana

Site: Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA Date: 2017-August-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
Pyrola americana grows in forests and bogs - or in this case, along a roadside in a forested state park. The flowering stalk may be a bit more than a foot tall, and rises from a rosette of 1 to several basal leaves. The peduncle may have several small bracts below the inflorescence.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Pyrola americana

Site: Grayson Highlands State Park, Grayson County, VA Date: 2017-August-02Photographer: Gerald C Williamson
Nikon D7000
The evergreen leaves of American Wintergreen, all basal, are a more or less glossy green. The veins may be white-bordered. The leave is ovate, obovate, or oblong - clearly rounded enough to justify the "roundleaf" references in some common names.
Click on the photo for a larger image
Pyrola americana

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All content except USDA Plants Database map Copyright Gerald C. Williamson 2017
Photographs Copyright owned by the named photographer