|Foliage and ripe fruit|
Gaultheria hispidula, commonly known as the creeping snowberry or moxie-plum, is a perennial spreading ground-level vine of the heath family Ericaceae native to North America that produces small white edible berries. It fruits from August to September. Its leaves and berries taste and smell like wintergreen.
Gaultheria hispidula is an evergreen prostrate shrub which forms a mat of stems and leaves which can reach 1 m (3 ft) in diameter and only 10 cm (4 in) high. The small leaves, which are under 1 cm long, are arranged alternately along the stems. The pale green-white flowers are seen in spring, followed by the white berries in August and September. The fruit is edible and acid-tasting.
Habitat and ecology
Gaultheria hispidula grows in acidic and neutral soils in open woodland and forest verges, particularly on wet ground such as in or on the edge of bogs, often near tree stumps. It is pollinated by solitary bees, bumblebees, bee-flies and hoverflies, while chipmunks and deer mice spread the seed.
Its original range spread from far northern Canada to as far south as North Carolina, but it has been extirpated from the southerly portions of its original range. Like most plants in North America, deforestation and competition with invasive ornamentals (especially shade-loving groundcovers, such as English ivy or winter creeper commonly sold at garden centers) probably hurts the creeping snowberry significantly. As a result, it has been extirpated from some of its original range and classified as rare in several states. Despite this, its international status has been evaluated as secure. This is because it is still quite common in its more northerly range of greater Canada. However, deforestation and exotic invasion are continuing problems that affect all forest species in both Canada and the United States. It is listed as endangered in Maryland and New Jersey, as threatened in Rhode Island, as sensitive in Washington (state), as rare in Pennsylvania, as presumed extirpated in Ohio, and as a species of special concern in Connecticut.
The Algonquin people use an infusion of the leaves as tonic for overeating. They also use the fruit as food. The Anticosti use it as a sedative, and the Micmac take a decoction of the leaves or the whole plant an unspecified purpose. The Ojibwa people use the leaves to make a beverage.
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- Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program (PNHP) (2007). "Creeping Snowberry (Gaultheria hispidula)" (PDF). Pennsylvania Plant Species of Concern. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources. Retrieved 22 May 2011.
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