SPOTTED WINTERGREEN Chimaphila maculata

The judge Samuel was commanded by Jehovah to anoint one of Jesse’s sons to be the successor to King Saul. He had Jesse parade the sons before him. They were handsome, but none was singled out to be anointed because “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Samuel asked if Jesse had another son. The lad David was out herding the sheep. When he was summoned and appeared before Samuel, the Lord told Samuel this was the one to anoint. Today we examine a wildflower with a name that does not fit the current season.


Chimaphila maculata

The spotted wintergreen is a wonder of God’s creation with a unique appearance, unusual persistence, and a usefulness that inspires us to praise God.

Have you ever heard of the name pipsissewa? Well, it’s another name for spotted wintergreen, as is waxflower. In colonial days, this plant was an official drug to relieve urinary system ailments. When heated as a tea, spotted wintergreen was used to induce sweating. It is still sought by herb-gatherers today. The leaves are refreshing when chewed and have been used in making root beer. (Hemmerly)

Spotted wintergreen, in the Heath Family, is quite abundant in well drained soils of our woods. The plant is an evergreen and survives our winters nestled under pine needles and hardwood leaves. Its blooming period extends from late spring to mid-summer.

The plant stands about 6 to 8 inches high. The leaves lie close to the ground and are easily noted because of their deep green color and the white “stripe” down the mid-rib of the leaf.

The flower bud is about 3/8 inch diameter. The lower half of this round bud opens into five petals that maintain the concave structure formed in the bud stage. The full flower rarely measures more than 5/8 inch. Some of the blooms may be flesh colored, but mine are a waxy off-white. Under the petals hang the stamens like upside-down cones.

If you have never seen the spotted wintergreen, go looking for it the next time you visit a wooded area. It can be found under both hardwoods and evergreens. A verbal description doesn’t do the plant justice. This is a case where “seein’ is believin’.”

Again a “weed” leads us to worship God, just as the Psalmist did in 136:4 “To Him who alone does great wonders, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

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Orrin Morris is a retired Baptist minister, local artist and art teacher. To purchase a two-volume set of books featuring his wildflower columns, visit The Sketching Pad in Olde Town Conyers, or call 770-929-3697 or text 404-824-3697. Email him at odmsketchingpad@yahoo.com.


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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