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SPECIES:  Gaultheria procumbens
Eastern teaberry. Image by Rob Routledge, Sault College,



SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION: Coladonato, Milo. 1994. Gaultheria procumbens. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: []. Revisions: On 13 July 2018, the common name of this species was changed in FEIS from: wintergreen to: eastern teaberry. Images were also added. ABBREVIATION: GAUPRO SYNONYMS: NO-ENTRY NRCS PLANT CODE: GAPR2 COMMON NAMES: eastern teaberry teaberry wintergreen TAXONOMY: The scientific name of eastern teaberry is Gaultheria procumbens L. (Ericaceae) [18]. There are no infrataxa. LIFE FORM: Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS: No special status OTHER STATUS: NO-ENTRY


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION: Eastern teaberry occurs from Newfoundland and New England south in the mountains to Georgia and west to Minnesota [13,32].
Distribution of eastern teaberry. Map courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC [2018, July 13] [61].
   FRES10  White - red - jack pine
   FRES11  Spruce - fir
   FRES13  Loblolly - shortleaf pine
   FRES14  Oak - pine
   FRES15  Oak - hickory
   FRES17  Elm - ash - cottonwood
   FRES18  Maple - beech - birch
   FRES19  Aspen - birch

     AL  CT  DE  GA  IL  IN  KY  ME  MD  MA
     MI  MN  NH  NJ  NY  NC  OH  PA  RI  TN
     VT  VA  WV  WI  MB  NB  NF  NS  ON  PE


   K082  Mosaic of K074 and K100
   K093  Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
   K095  Great Lakes pine forest
   K099  Maple - basswood forest
   K100  Oak - hickory forest
   K101  Elm - ash forest
   K102  Beech - maple forest
   K103  Mixed mesophytic forest
   K104  Appalachian oak forest
   K106  Northern hardwoods
   K107  Northern hardwoods - fir forest
   K108  Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
   K110  Northeastern oak - pine forest
   K111  Oak - hickory - pine forest

     1  Jack pine
    12  Black spruce
    13  Black spruce - tamarack
    14  Northern pin oak
    15  Red pine
    16  Aspen
    17  Pin cherry
    18  Paper birch
    19  Gray birch - red maple
    20  White pine - northern red oak - red maple
    21  Eastern white pine
    23  Eastern hemlock
    24  Hemlock - yellow birch
    25  Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
    26  Sugar maple - basswood
    27  Sugar maple
    28  Black cherry - maple
    30  Red spruce - yellow birch
    32  Red spruce
    33  Red spruce - balsam fir
    37  Northern white-cedar
    38  Tamarack
    39  Black ash - American elm - red maple
    40  Post oak - blackjack oak
    42  Bur oak
    43  Bear oak
    45  Pitch pine
    46  Eastern redcedar
    53  White oak
    55  Northern red oak
    57  Yellow-poplar
    60  Beech - sugar maple
    62  Silver maple - American elm
    73  Southern redcedar
    75  Shortleaf pine
    79  Virginia pine


Eastern teaberry is commonly found in the understory of pine (Pinus spp.) and
hardwood forests of New England.  In western Nova Scotia and the Great
Lake States, it occurs in jack pine (P. banksiana) and spruce-larch
(Picea spp.-Larix spp.) forests [4,20,53,59].  It is a common understory
species in maple-oak (Acer spp.-Quercus spp.) forests of upper Michigan
[52].  It is a dominant understory shrub of oak-poplar/fern (Quercus
spp.-Populus spp./Pteridium spp.) communities of southern New York [60].

Eastern teaberry is named as a dominant or codominant understory species in
the following classifications:

Habitat classification system field guide:  northern Lake States Region
  (Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northeast Wisconsin) [8]
Forest-type studies in the Adirondack Region [19]
Field guide to forest habitat types of northern Wisconsin [21]
Vegetation of the Great Smoky Mountains [42]

Understory species commonly associated with eastern teaberry include
huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.), blueberries (Vaccinium spp.),
raspberries (Rubus spp.), grapes (Vitis spp.), mountain-laurel (Kalmia
latifolia), Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia), witchhazel
(Hamamelis virginiana), bog Labrador tea (Ledum groenlandicum),
partridgeberry (Mitchella repens), and lily-of-the-valley (Maianthemum
canadense), [7,24,35,42].


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE: Eastern teaberry is not taken in large quantities by any species of wildlife, but the regularity of its use enhances its importance.  Its fruit persists through the winter and it is one of the few sources of green leaves in winter [32].  White-tailed deer browse eastern teaberry throughout its range, and in some localities it is an important winter food.  Other animals that eat eastern teaberry are wild turkey, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, ring-necked pheasant, black bear, white-footed mouse, and red fox.  Eastern teaberry is a favorite food of the eastern chipmunk, and the leaves are a minor winter food of the gray squirrel in Virginia [26,37]. PALATABILITY: NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE: NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE: NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES: NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES: The leaves of eastern teaberry are used to make oil of eastern teaberry [27] OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS: Eastern teaberry is ordinarily plentiful in the woodlands of the Northeast, and no special care is needed to perpetuate it.  Seedlings or clones are established by plantings beneath taller shrubs or in other partially shaded sites.  When plants have established, fruit production is stimulated by thinning timber stands and removing overtopping vegetation [32]. Eastern teaberry can be controlled by phenoxy herbicides [32].


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS: Eastern teaberry is a spreading, evergreen, rhizomatous shrub which grows 4 to 8 inches (10-20 cm) tall [5,11,28].  Eastern teaberry creeps along the ground, forming a dense carpet of shiny leaves that are 2 to 6 inches (5-15 cm) long.  The small flowers are less than 0.5 inches (1.2 cm) long and are borne at the base of the leaves [27].  The fruit is berrylike capsule with a large fleshy calyx [45].  The roots are 1 inch (2.5 cm) or less in depth [14,31]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM:    Hemicryptophyte    Geophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES: Reproduction in eastern teaberry is both sexual and asexual.  It typically reproduces vegetatively from rhizomes.  Vegetative growth is initiated as additional branching on old stems, or as new stems on creeping rhizomes [55].  The long, infrequently branching rhizomes distribute ramets over large areas; it exploits gaps in litter for clonal propagation [23,50].  Bird-disseminated seeds are probably the source of new plants colonizing old fields [32,41]. In the oak-pine upland forest of the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, eastern teaberry occurrence was positively correlated (p<0.05) with the presence of litter and dead wood [50]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS: As long as the soil is acidic, eastern teaberry grows well on many substrates including peat, sand, sandy loam, and coal spoils.  It has been found growing where soil pH ranged from 3.5 to 6.9 on the surface to 4.0 to 6.9 below the surface.  However, a pH of 4.5 to 6.0 has been reported as optimum for growth, with 7.0 the maximum eastern teaberry tolerates. Eastern teaberry mainly occurs on moist sites but tolerates moisture conditions ranging from dry to poorly drained [2,32]. In jack pine communities in upper Michigan, eastern teaberry was present on xeric, transitional, and mesic sites with frequencies of 11, 62, and 86 percent, respectively [3].  In Nova Scotia, eastern teaberry is found on the tops of ridges and knolls in very shallow soil [58]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS: Eastern teaberry is shade tolerant.  Fruiting, however, usually occurs in openings [23,32,50].  It is a common understory species in the Northeast [9].  In a Minnesota Norway pine (P. resinosa) forest, eastern teaberry had greatest abundance of cover under intermediate light intensities [56]. Eastern teaberry is found in the oldest vegetation in Grass River Bog, an undrained sand plain in the Adirondacks [43]. Eastern teaberry is part of the understory vegetation in climax pine forests of northern Minnesota [57]. In eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) climax forest in northeastern Pennsylvania, eastern teaberry frequency ranged from 0 to 6 percent [47].   In the Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, eastern teaberry was present in early and climax stages of forest succession [49].  Frequency in the birch-poplar (Betula spp.-Populus spp.) stage was 58 percent; it was "abundant" in the pine stage.  Frequency was 36 percent in the fir-spruce (Abies spp.-Picea spp.) stage.  Eastern teaberry was not present in the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) stage, but frequency was 14 percent in eastern hemlock climax forest [49]. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT: Eastern teaberry flowers from the end of May to September depending on geographic location [10,37].  In Illinois, eastern teaberry flowers initiated during June open in mid-July, with the fruit maturing in September [45]. In New Jersey and Penn Sylvia, the flowering period is from mid-July through early August [55].  The leaves usually persist throughout the winter [27,32].  The fruit may remain attached till the following spring [45].


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS: Eastern teaberry is not well-adapted to fire that removes litter and/or the organic layer of soil.  Rhizomes are restricted to the upper 0.8 to 1.2 inches (2-3 cm) of the organic layer, and eastern teaberry usually does not survive if the organic layer is removed by fire [15].  The rhizomes are especially vulnerable to severe fire [54].  If eastern teaberry survives, the fire was probably of short duration or light enough that the fire removed only aboveground vegetation and little litter [14]. Eastern teaberry rhizomes can tolerate brief exposure to high temperatures. In one study its rhizomes were collected in spring, summer, and fall and subjected to wet heat.  Maximum shoot growth and number of stems occurred after spring-collected rhizomes were placed in a water bath at 131 degrees Fahrenheit (55 deg C) for 5 minutes.  Rhizomes died when subjected to a 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 deg C) bath for 5 minutes [14]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY:    Rhizomatous low woody plant, rhizome in organic mantle    Secondary colonizer - off-site seed FIRE REGIMES: Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which this species may occur by entering the species name in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes".


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT: Fire top-kills eastern teaberry [15].  Surviving rhizomes may sprout [16,30,33,54].   PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE: The response of eastern teaberry to fire and its role in fire related succession seems to be highly variable. In southwestern Nova Scotia, eastern teaberry survived a July fire.  The following summer density (stems/9 sq ft) and frequency (%) on covered and uncovered quadrats were as follows [26]:                covered           exposed    Density       0.3                0    Frequency    20                  0 In southeast Manitoba, five plots were burned in April.  No prefire data were given.  Results from the end of August showed the average frequency of eastern teaberry was 54 percent and the average cover was 3.8 percent. Different levels of shade (0-100 %) had little or no effect [46]. Percent frequency of eastern teaberry was monitored for 2 years after a fall (September) prescribed fire on a jack pine clearcut in northern Michigan.  Little change occurred, at least in the first year.  Results are given [1]:           Unburned blocks         Burned blocks             % frequency           % frequency    1980          5.6                   5.4    1981          4.6                   0.8 Some research indicates that eastern teaberry is sensitive to fire.  A spring controlled fire was conducted on bracken fern (Pteridium aquilinum)-grassland in Wisconsin.  Sampling was done in July and August of the year of the fire.  The average frequency of eastern teaberry decreased by 25.8 percent [38].  In the Pine Barrens of northern Wisconsin, eastern teaberry average frequency decreased from 28 to 14 percent 1 year after a spring fire [39].  In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, eastern teaberry became less important with increasing fire frequencies.  Fire frequencies ranged from annual to 15-year intervals [44].  Eastern teaberry in this area exploit fire-generated gaps in litter through clonal propagation [50]. Other studies indicate that fire may favor eastern teaberry.  In northwest Minnesota, a severe May fire burned only the uppermost centimeters of the forest floor.  Eastern teaberry cover in unburned stands was 0 to 5 percent.  After fire it was present in several associations and increased through the sixth year following fire to a maximum cover of 6.2 percent.  Biomass increased after fire, more in dry than moist stands, but leveled off after the second year, perhaps because of the low-bush growth form of eastern teaberry [51].   In a survey of the burned-over forest lands in southwestern Nova Scotia, frequencies of eastern teaberry related to years since fire were as follows [48]:    postfire yr      % frequency        1                10.5        2                16.6        9                 4.0       22                40       29                48.2       40                40
The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed
fire use and postfire response of plant community species, including eastern teaberry,
that was not available when this species review was originally written:


SPECIES: Gaultheria procumbens
REFERENCES:  1.  Abrams, Marc D.; Dickmann, Donald I. 1984. Floristic composition before        and after prescribed fire on a jack pine clear-cut site in northern        lower Michigan. Canadian Journal of Forest Research. 14: 746-749.        [7236]  2.  Archambault, Louis; Barnes, Burton V.; Witter, John A. 1989. Ecological        species groups of oak ecosystems of southeastern Michigan. Forest        Science. 35(4): 1058-1074.  [9768]  3.  Beaufait, W. R.; Brown, R. T. 1962. Phytogeography of a representative        outwash plain jack pine site. Papers of the Michigan Academy of Science,        Arts & Letters. 47: 201-209.  [7239]  4.  Braun, E. Lucy. 1950. Deciduous forests of eastern North America.        Philadelphia, PA: Blakiston Books. [pages unknown].  [19812]  5.  Braun, E. Lucy. 1961. The woody plants of Ohio. Columbus, OH: Ohio State        University Press. 362 p.  [12914]  6.  Bernard, Stephen R.; Brown, Kenneth F. 1977. Distribution of mammals,        reptiles, and amphibians by BLM physiographic regions and A.W. Kuchler's        associations for the eleven western states. Tech. Note 301. Denver, CO:        U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management. 169 p.        [434]  7.  Cain, Stanley A. 1931. Ecological studies of the vegetation of the Great        Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. Botanical Gazette. 91:        22-41.  [10340]  8.  Coffman, Michael S.; Alyanak, Edward; Resovsky, Richard. 1980. Field        guide habitat classification system: For Upper Peninsula of Michigan and        northeast Wisconsin. [Place of publication unknown]: Cooperative        Research on Forest Soils. 112 p.  [8997]  9.  Collins, Scott L.; Good, Ralph E. 1986. 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