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Wintergreen was adopted by the legislature of 1999 as the state herb. Wintergreen grows in wooded areas and in some clearings from Canada to Georgia. The low growing, glossy leafed herb provides an attractive ground cover; in particular from fall to winter when red berries adorn the plants. In July, the plants bloom, producing white bell shaped flowers.
Traditionally wintergreen has been used for its soothing qualities providing relief from a variety of ailments. Native Americans crushed the leaves and applied them in order to relieve strained muscles and inflammations. Additionally, teas made from wintergreen relieve internal discomforts like sore throats and upset stomachs. Some early colonists even substituted wintergreen for their regular tea, which was heavily taxed during the American Revolution. Today wintergreen is used to flavor gum, candy, and toothpaste.
Wintergreen is a group of plants. Wintergreen once commonly referred to plants that remain green (continue photosynthesis) throughout
the winter. The term evergreen is now more commonly used for this characteristic.
Most species of the shrub genus Gaultheria demonstrate this characteristic and are called wintergreens in North America, the most common generally being the Eastern Teaberry (Gaultheria procumbens).
Wintergreen berries, from Gaultheria procumbens, are used medicinally. Native Americans brewed a tea from the leaves to alleviate rheumatic
symptoms, headache, fever, sore throat and various aches and pains. During the American Revolution, wintergreen leaves were used as a substitute for
tea, which was scarce
The law designating the herb wintergreen as the official Maine state herb is found in then Maine Revised Statutes, Title 1, Chapter 9, Subchapter 1, Section 214.
Title 1: GENERAL PROVISIONS
Chapter 9: SEAL, MOTTO, EMBLEMS AND FLAGS
Subchapter 1: GENERAL PROVISIONS
§221. State herb
The herb wintergreen (gaultheria procumbens) is the official state herb. [1999, c. 27, §1 (new).]
PL 1999, Ch. 27, §1 (NEW).
Taxonomic Hierarchy: Wintergreen
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Subclass: Dilleniidae -
Order: Ericales -
Family: Ericaceae - Heath family
Genus: Gaultheria L. - snowberry
Species: Gaultheria procumbens L. - eastern teaberry