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Common Wintergreen

Pyrola minor

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Plant Profile

Flowering Months:
Ericaceae (Heath)
Life Cycle:
Maximum Size:
20 centimetres tall
Bogs, ditches, fens, gardens, heathland, marshes, moorland, rocky places, sand dunes, swamps, wetland, woodland.

White, 5 petals
The inflorescence is an erect flower spike of dense, nodding flowers. 5 to 10 flowers per spike. The flowers are globular, white and sometimes tinged pink. Pollinated by bees and flies. Similar in appearance to Round-leaved Wintergreen (Pyrola rotundifolia) but the style of Round-leaved Wintergreen is curved whereas the style of Common Wintergreen is straight.
The fruit is a 5-valved, nodding capsule.
Most of the leaves are in a basal rosette. They are stalked, round-leaved (pointed) and evergreen. The leaf stalks are winged. There are a few or no stem leaves at all. The stem leaves are small, stalkless and scale-like. Perennial.
Other Names:
English Wintergreen, Lesser Wintergreen, Small Wintergreen, Snowline Wintergreen, Wood Lily.
Frequency (UK):
Occasionally seen  

Similar Species

Other Information


Pyrola minor, commonly known as lesser wintergreen or small wintergreen, is a species of perennial herb in the heath family. It is native to Europe and Asia, typically found in damp, shady areas such as woods and bogs. It has small, white, bell-shaped flowers that bloom in the summer and glossy, dark green, oval-shaped leaves. The leaves and root of the plant have been used medicinally by indigenous peoples and in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments. It is also used as an ornamental plant in gardens. It is similar to Pyrola rotundifolia and Pyrola media but it has smaller size and flowers. It is also a lesser known species in comparison to the other Pyrola species.


Common Wintergreen (Pyrola minor) is a small, evergreen plant that belongs to the family Ericaceae. It is a native plant of the Northern Hemisphere and is commonly found in wooded areas, forest clearings, and damp bogs.

The plant has leathery leaves that are dark green and shiny on top and pale green on the bottom. In the summer, it produces clusters of small, bell-shaped white or pink flowers that bloom on long, slender stems. The flowers are pollinated by bees and other insects, and the plant produces small, shiny black berries in the fall.

Common Wintergreen has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries. The leaves of the plant contain a number of compounds that are believed to have therapeutic properties, including methyl salicylate, which is similar to the active ingredient in aspirin. The plant has been used to treat a variety of conditions, including headaches, muscle pain, and joint inflammation. In addition, some Native American tribes used the plant to treat respiratory infections and digestive problems.

The plant is also popular among foragers and herbalists, who use the leaves and berries in teas, syrups, and other remedies. The leaves can be harvested in the summer and dried for later use, and the berries can be harvested in the fall and used to make jams, jellies, and other preserves.

Common Wintergreen is a low-maintenance plant that is well suited to wooded gardens and naturalistic landscapes. It prefers partial to full shade and well-drained soil, and it is hardy to zone 3. The plant is also deer resistant, making it a good choice for areas where deer are a problem.

Common Wintergreen is a versatile and attractive plant that has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. Its attractive foliage and delicate flowers make it a great addition to any garden, and its low-maintenance requirements make it a great choice for gardeners of all skill levels. So, if you're looking for a plant that's both beautiful and useful, consider adding Common Wintergreen to your garden.

In addition to its medicinal and ornamental uses, Common Wintergreen also has cultural and historical significance. The plant was used by Native American tribes as a natural remedy, and its leaves were also used to make a tea that was believed to have spiritual properties. The plant was also used as a food source by some tribes, who would roast the leaves and berries to produce a flavorful and nutritious snack.

Common Wintergreen is also a valuable plant for wildlife, providing habitat and food for a variety of animals. The leaves and stems of the plant are browsed by deer, rabbits, and other mammals, and the berries are eaten by birds and other wildlife. In addition, the plant provides cover and nesting sites for birds and other small animals.

In terms of cultivation, Common Wintergreen is a hardy plant that is easy to grow. It can be propagated by seeds or division, and it is also readily available from nurseries and online plant retailers. When planting Common Wintergreen, it is important to choose a location that offers partial to full shade and well-drained soil. The plant prefers moist soil, but it will tolerate drier conditions if necessary.

In summary, Common Wintergreen is a versatile and valuable plant that has a long history of use for medicinal, ornamental, and cultural purposes. Its attractive foliage, delicate flowers, and low-maintenance requirements make it a great choice for gardeners, while its cultural and historical significance make it a valuable addition to any landscape. If you're looking for a plant that's both beautiful and useful, consider adding Common Wintergreen to your garden today.


Common Wintergreen filmed at Malham Tarn National Nature Reserve in North Yorkshire on the 29th July 2023.


Music credits
Bushwick Tarantella by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

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Distribution Map

Reproduced by kind permission of the BSBI.

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