Common Herb Species of the Northwest Forest






Terminology | Pictorial

Pyrola elliptica
"White Wintergreen"

Pyrolaceae (Wintergreen Family)

Shinleaf Description

General - a perennial from fleshy roots; stems growing up to 30 cm tall (usually 10 - 20 cm), leafless; sheathing bracts rare.

Leaves - single (rarely 2) at stem base, 4 - 12 cm long, egg- to lance-shaped, broadest above middle; blunt-tipped, tapers to base.

Flowers - 3 - 12 in loose, slender cluster at stem tip; greenish white to yellowish green; upper sepal broad, rounded; other sepals and petals lance-shaped; lip narrow, 5 - 8 mm long; spur slender, tapering, same length or shorter than lip; appearing in mid-summer.

Fruit - erect, many-seeded, ellipsoid, up to 1 cm long capsules.; ripening late-summer.


Bogs, fens, swamps and moist to wet woods; widespread across boreal forest north to tundra; more or less circumpolar; prefers fresh, upland forests.


Shinleaf has white, often green- or pink-veined flowers not unlike those of green wintergreen, but its leaf blades are broadly elliptic to oblong, 3 - 7 cm long, and mostly longer than their stalks. Wintergreens grow best in their natural habitat. They produce very few feeding roots along their spreading underground stems, and these grow in association with special fungi. Transplanting destroys the delicate roots, and the garden environment is unlikely to have the same fungi that are found in the forest.

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