Plant names are often confusing to those who don't make a study of the subject. The spotted wintergreen and pipsissewa are names applied to two different plants that are in the same genus, but they are quite different in appearance. Vernacular and colloquial names of plants have always been a source of confusion within local settings. Of course, this is why botanists are more confident of a plant's identification if the scientific name, genus and species, is mentioned.
As an example, spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is also known as ratsbane, dragon's tongue, pipsissewa, rheumatism root, spotted pipsissewa, wild arsenic, and wintergreen…plus a host of other regional names. Pipsissewa (C. umbellata) has even more fascinating names which reflect local usage.
Copyright © 2004 William T. Hathaway.