Thursday, July 27, 2017
In Search Of Wintergreen
Our source of arbutus plants sent word to us today announcing the blooming of her wintergreen. Despite the recurring showers, we set off to the back woods to check on the status of our plants. We found new plant growth proudly displaying its smaller reddish leaves but no flowers. Where the mature leaves depart from the stem, red areas can easily be seen. The tiny white bump there may be the start of the flowering stem. We will watch to see if flowers soon appear there. This is an incredibly busy time of year in the garden and we have frequently failed to take the time to look for wintergreen flowers.
This piece of wintergreen was an unexpected gift to us when we were uprooting arbutus. Its need for acidic soil matches arbutus so we planted the wintergreen near out transplanted arbutus. When moved each leaf junction consisted of just three leaves. As our gaze moves along the stem from right to left, new growth is seen. We expected nothing from the transplant since our past efforts always ended in failure. This time the new growth looks promising. This plant will get a wire cage to protect it from foragers as winter approaches. We have seen arbutus and wintergreen growing side by side in the wild and would be thrilled if that can happen here.
The Canada mayflower has, as its name suggests, already flowered. This native must be classed as invasive here. Where these woods drop downhill to meet the road, Canada mayflower has nearly totally displaced all other native plants. We have watched as it closed in on our rather sizable wintergreen plants but could do nothing to halt its advance. For now both plants grow under the black birch trees but the wintergreen will soon be only a memory. The photo shows that many of the seed bearing berries have already been eaten possibly by turkeys and grouse. Those seeds have been scattered and more new mayflower plants will grow.
Wintergreen has long been a part of my life. As a child those dark chocolate covered pink colored wintergreen cream patties were a favorite after school treat. I remember reading of early pioneer women breaking out the wintergreen wine at a quilting bee. Imagine the size of a wintergreen patch that would have been needed to gather enough leaves to make wine. Try to imagine the taste of wintergreen wine. I eat the berries while walking about during mild winter spells and that always makes me wonder about the wine.
These Indian pipes were an unexpected sight today. They grow just across the lane just uphill from the wintergreen and Canada mayflower. The purity of the color suggests that these are newly emerged. They were an unexpected gift on this day with no wintergreen flowers.