Chimaphila umbellata

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Chimaphila umbellata

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Chimaphila
C. umbellata
Binomial name
Chimaphila umbellata

Chimaphila umbellata, the umbellate wintergreen, pipsissewa, or prince's pine, is a small perennial flowering plant found in dry woodlands, or sandy soils. It is native throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere.


This plant grows up to 35 cm (12 in) tall, with one simple stem bearing evergreen, shiny, toothed leaves in opposite pairs or whorls of 3-5 (and sometimes more) along the stem. Leaves have a slightly spiny serrulate margin starting close to the base, and range from 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches long (or longer) with a typically oblanceolate shape. Flowers range from white to pink, produced in a small umbel of 4–8 together. The filaments have a roundish expansion at the base, bearing hairs along the margin only. In comparison, the closely related C. menziesii bears hairs on the back of the filament's expansion as well.[1]

Close-up on flower
Fruit of C. umbellata subsp. occidentalis


Although it has green leaves year-round, it receives a significant portion of its nutrition from fungi in the soil (that is, it is a partial myco-heterotroph, which is not surprising as related plants, such as Pyrola, are partial or full myco-heterotrophs).[2]


There are four subspecies:

  • Chimaphila umbellata subsp. umbellata – Europe, Asia
  • Chimaphila umbellata subsp. acuta – southwestern North America
  • Chimaphila umbellata subsp. cisatlantica – northeastern North America
  • Chimaphila umbellata subsp. occidentalis – northwestern North America


Some Plateau Indian tribes used a boil of prince's pine to treat tuberculosis.[3]

The twentieth century Appalachian folk healer Clarence "Catfish" Gray, "Man of the Woods", credited pipsissewa with curing his own heart problems and included it in his 15 herb cure-all "bitters."[4]

It can reportedly be used as a flavoring in candy and soft drinks, particularly root beer.[5]

The roots and leaves of Chimaphila umbellata can be boiled to create tea.[6]

Recent investigations show the anti-proliferative effect of Chimaphila umbellata in human breast cancer cells (MCF-7). [7]


"Pipsissewa" is a Cree name meaning "It-breaks-into-small-pieces".


  1. ^ Jepson, Willis Linn. "A Flora of California". University of California, Berkeley. pp. 47–48. Retrieved 2023-07-27.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ Leho Tedersoo; Prune Pellet; Urmas Kõljalg; Marc-André Selosse (March 2007). "Parallel evolutionary paths to mycoheterotrophy in understorey Ericaceae and Orchidaceae: ecological evidence for mixotrophy in Pyroleae". Oecologia. 151 (2): 206–217. Bibcode:2007Oecol.151..206T. doi:10.1007/s00442-006-0581-2. PMID 17089139. S2CID 12529846.
  3. ^ Hunn, Eugene S. (1990). Nch'i-Wana, "The Big River": Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. University of Washington Press. p. 352. ISBN 978-0-295-97119-3.
  4. ^ Green, E. (1978). "A Modern Appalachian Folk Healer". Appalachian Journal. 6 (1): 2–15.
  5. ^ "Chimaphila umbellata". Retrieved 2023-07-28.
  6. ^ Patterson, Patricia A. (1985). Field Guide to the Forest Plants of Northern Idaho (PDF). United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. pp. 37–47.
  7. ^ Das, N., Samantaray, S., Ghosh, C., Kushwaha, K., Sircar, D. and Roy, P., 2021. Chimaphila umbellata extract exerts anti-proliferative effect on human breast cancer cells via RIP1K/RIP3K-mediated necroptosis. Phytomedicine Plus, p.100159.

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