Mission: Wintergreen

Photo by wikimedia user Jomegat CC:BY-SA
Photo by VS user APES 7 CC:BY
Photo by Mike Serfas CC:BY-SA
Photo by Leo Papandreou CC:BY-SA

Research Question

Where does wintergreen grow in Maine? Is its range changing?

You’re invited

Species expert and Middle School teacher Sara McQuarrie has noticed that Wintergreen doesn’t grow near where she lives in Patten, Maine. While it is plentiful in most of Maine, she can’t find any north of Baxter State Park. She is curious why it is easy to find wintergreen in some places, but not others. Is wintergreen’s distribution due to soil conditions, temperature, or both?

To answer these questions, Sara is going to need a lot more data! Both where wintergreen is and where it isn’t.

Mission steps

  1. Print out an upland species and habitat datasheet and the species card for wintergreen.
  2. Go look for wintergreen. Take note of what the soil is like. Is it wet or dry? You can refer to the guide below under “dive deeper” for identifying soil types. Any soil data you collect can go in your field notes.
  3. Post your data! Found or not found.

Dive Deeper!

Want to collect soil data? Soil scientists use a bunch of different types of data to categorize soil types. One of the easiest and most informative pieces of data you can collect is the soil texture. From this, scientists can infer a lot about soil conditions. To do this extra step you will need a sample of your soil, some powder dish detergent, and a glass jar. For the full set of instructions, check out the great how-to here.

Why this mission matters

To understand how our climate and ecosystems are changing, scientists need indicator species. Wintergreen could be a great indicator species for studying habitat change if it has a clear distribution in Maine.

The more data we have about how Maine’s ecosystems are changing, the better we can adapt to a changing climate.




Hi Wild flower I've haven't done any true research yet. But I now that its very common in the Fryeburg,
Brownfield, Denmark Love'll area. On the border I will comet again probably soon not until I do soil samples. comment you later

Hi Wildflower, It is the Gaultheria procumbens that I am interested in gathering information on. The leaves of this species taste like wintergreen when chewed and can be used to make wintergreen tea. Any data that you can gather would be great! I find it so odd that areas that would be ideal for this species to grow where I live in Aroostook County, are void of it, yet in the same types of environments in southern Maine and the Millinocket area it is very common! Thank you Moss Boss for responding to this question also. Thank you for the multiple links to the great clarifying information between the two species! :)

Hi Wildflower, you make an excellent point! Our species expert can weigh in here, but my understanding is that both species can go by the common name "wintergreen", with G. procumbens being called by that more often. I am not familiar enough with both species to say if one is more wintergreen-y than the other, but I don't doubt that G. hispidula is the more minty. I will ask our species expert if she is interested in the data for both species for this mission, but my guess would be that's she's interested.

Here are a few external sources that list a whole bunch of common names for both species (moxieplum is my favorite!):
Gaultheria procumbens:

Gaultheria hispidula:

Hope that answered your question and clarified things a little. In the meantime if you want to post data on G. hispidula, you can post it as a "not found" for G. procumbens.

If our expert does want to add hispidula data to the database, I'll post an update here when it can be added under it's own "found" posting.

-Moss Boss and Team Vital Signs

I would love to participate in this mission, but I am looking for some species clarification. Gaultheria procumbens wth red berries is the plant that has the common name Teaberry, while it is Gaultheria hispidula that has the white berries with wintergreen taste. The species card for this mission includes both the common names for the one Latin procumbens, so I am curious about the similar species connection.
These two species are ones that I see in many places that I hike (forest and alpine zones,) so I would love to add some data to your mission!

Thank you!