By William T. Hathaway


The tiny, white flowers of this creeping, evergreen shrub appear in the springtime months of April and May. The bell-shaped flowers appear nodding from the base of leaf stems supported by small upright branches. Locally this species forms small colonies of plants in mixed oak-hickory woodlands, usually in sandy soil. Shiny, waxy leaves are quite conspicuous in the wintertime and are often noticed by seasonal hunters; somewhat hidden bright red berries are produced in fall and winter.

Teaberry is the source of wintergreen oil, which is used to flavor chewing gum, candies, and teas. A tea made from the leaves has many medicinal applications, a couple which are a treatment for rheumatism and to relieve pain.

In my experience I have observed only one colony of Teaberry in Pittsylvania County: this was in the woodlands a mile upriver from the Schoolfield Bridge in a ravine on the left side of the Dan River flood plain. Although wintertime woodlands are good for hunters, my winter hikes are confined mostly to open areas. I feel certain that many teaberry colonies are scattered throughout our county.