Spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata)

Spotted wintergreen in fruit

Top facts

  • The spotted wintergreen was used by the indigenous people of the United States for a variety of medical purposes including the treatment of colds and fevers.
  • The spotted wintergreen occurs over a wide range in eastern North America, but is also found in Central America.
  • One of the main threats to the spotted wintergreen is the loss and degradation of its habitat.
  • Overcollection is a prominent threat to the spotted wintergreen.
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Spotted wintergreen fact file

Spotted wintergreen description

GenusChimaphila (1)

The spotted wintergreen (Chimaphila maculata) is a small perennial evergreen plant which spreads by creeping rhizomes and grows in patches (3) (4). The lance-shaped whorled leaves (2) (4) are dark green with white veins, and are have toothed edges (2). At the tip of the stem there is a stalk with between one and five nodding flowers with white or pinkish petals (2) (4). The plant’s fruit is a brown roundish capsule which persists throughout the winter (2) (5). The spotted wintergreen can be distinguished from the similar pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata) by the conspicuous white veins on its leaves (6).

Also known as
spotted pipsissewa, striped prince's pine, striped wintergreen.
Chimaphila acuminata, Chimaphila costaricensis, Chimaphila dasystemma, Chimaphila guatemalensis , Pyrola maculata.
Height: 7 - 25 cm (2) (3)
Leaf length: 3.75 - 6.25 cm (3)

Spotted wintergreen biology

The spotted wintergreen blooms in early to mid-July for around two or three weeks (2) (6). It is believed that this plant is pollinated primarily by bumblebees (Bombus species) (2) (3), particularly the perplexing bumblebee (Bombus perplexus) (6). The seeds are likely to be dispersed principally by wind (6).


Spotted wintergreen range

The spotted wintergreen is found in much of the eastern United States and Canada (7), from southern Ontario in the north, to Georgia in the south and to Mississippi and Illinois in the west (3) (7). This plant has also been found in Arizona, Mexico and other parts of Central America (2).


Spotted wintergreen habitat

The spotted wintergreen is found in dry oak or oak-pine mixed woodland, where there is full to partial canopy cover (2) (3) (6).


Spotted wintergreen status

The spotted wintergreen has not yet been assessed by the IUCN.


Spotted wintergreen threats

A major threat to the spotted wintergreen is the loss and degradation of its habitat due to recreational use and forestry operations (2) (3), as well as conversion for residential or commercial areas (3). Due to the attractive appearance of the spotted wintergreen, overcollection and deliberate transplantation also pose a threat to this species (2) (3) (4). Most of habitats occupied by the spotted wintergreen are fragmented, resulting in isolated populations with low genetic variation, which can result in lower overall population fitness (6). The various threats to this plant species may be compounded by its reliance on bee pollinators, as many bee species are in global decline (8).


Spotted wintergreen conservation

The spotted wintergreen is nationally endangered in Canada, as well as being classified as endangered in Maine and Illinois and as exploitably vulnerable in New York (7). In Ontario, a species recovery strategy has been written that highlights some of the conservation actions underway in the area (6). Population surveys and habitat monitoring for some populations have been completed, and habitat management on public land is ongoing (6). The recovery strategy outlines several other objectives and approaches deemed necessary for the protection of the spotted wintergreen in Ontario. The long-term goal is to protect and enhance all extant populations, restore historical populations and establish new populations if it is deemed to be feasible (6). This species is known to occur in many protected areas throughout its large range (7).


Find out more

Find out more about spotted wintergreen:

Find out more about plant conservation in North America:



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A plant which retains leaves all year round. This is in contrast to deciduous plants, which completely lose their leaves for part of the year.
A plant that normally lives for more than two years. After an initial period, the plant usually produces flowers once a year.
To transfer pollen grains from the stamen (male part of a flower) to the stigma (female part of a flower) of a flowering plant. This usually leads to fertilisation, the development of seeds and, eventually, a new plant.
An underground, horizontal plant stem that produces roots and shoots.
In plants, a set of leaves, flowers, or branches that spring from a stem at the same point and encircle it.


  1. Catalogue of Life (May, 2014)
  2. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources Species at Risk - Spotted Wintergreen (May, 2014)
  3. Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Maine Natural Areas Program - Chimaphila maculata (May, 2014)
  4. Government of Canada, Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada Assessment and Update Status Report on the Spotted Wintergreen Chimaphila maculata in Canada (May, 2014)
  5. Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation - striped pipsissewa (May, 2014)
  6. Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Recovery Strategy Series - Spotted Wintergreen (May, 2014)
  7. United States Department of Agriculture, Natural Resources Conservation Service - Chimaphila maculate (May, 2014)
  8. Grixti, J.C., Wong, L.T., Cameron, S.A. and Favret, C. (2009) Decline of bumble bees (Bombus) in the North American Midwest. Biological Conservation, 192: 75-84.

Image credit

Spotted wintergreen in fruit  
Spotted wintergreen in fruit

© Dr Steve Baskauf

Dr Steve Baskauf


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