These are the first Wintergreen flowers that we have ever seen. It is not uncommon for us to find the bright red berries that remain on the plant as snow melts but flowers have proven to be elusive. A factor in never before having seen them is the timing of the flowering. With so much to be done at this time of year, one simply is drawn away from this lowly ground cover. As we discovered today flowers remain attached to the plant for merely moments.
When these two blossoms were discovered, one had been pulled free of the plant and was on the ground directly under the plant. To get a closer look the flower cup was wiggled away from the plant and placed inverted on the moss. Old eyes did not see the load of yellow pollen at the base of the blossom cup. The photograph clearly displayed the pollen. Based on our experience with Arbutus flowers where we saw bees pull the flowers apart to gain exit from their pollen gathering activity we suspect that is how this flower ended up on the ground.
Wintergreen has been a puzzle for us for decades. A stem growing just below the surface sends up a stalk that sports a few leaves with limited roots underground. Somehow nutrients travel through the buried stem from distance growth having a larger root system. Attempts to transplant Wintergreen usually end in failure. We have read about a method that is supposed to provide transplants that will grow. The buried stem is exposed on both sides of the plant. Two cuts are made one on either side of the leaf growth with the location marked. A year or two later the severed plant might have grown more roots capable of supporting the plant. If it is still green and growing, transplantation might be successful.
The two stems in the photo were moved the day that they were unearthed. Both remain green and growing but they do not look like much considering the years that have passed since they were moved. They have yet to produce flowers or new leaf growth. Apparently there is some secret to moving this plant that remains unknown to us.
The plants shown in this photo are wild plants that have been given no interference by the hand of man. Wintergreen is frequently described as a ground cover but in this instance a great deal of forest floor is visible with the Wintergreen growth sparse at best. We would love to have a more traditional ground cover growth habit but this seems to be the best that can be found here. Notice that there are no blossoms on any of these plants. The flowering plant is closer to the river while these plants are on much higher ground. We will check back looking for flowers. We do find the red berries here so these plants must flower at least some years.
Our woods contained an impressive number of Wintergreen plants when we first walked this land but they are presently under attack from another native plant. Canada Mayflower is relentless in its slow march across our woodland. It is an attractive plant with white flowers contrasted by dark green glossy leaves but the final outcome is certain. Only it will remain. For the moment we have a few Wintergreen plants growing under our watchful eyes but their fate is already determined as is mine. Nothing lasts forever.