Winter forests have a dismal lifeless look with leafless trees, gray tree trunks and crumbled fallen leaves. Yet I still enjoy walking through woods at this time of year to look for signs of life.
In the midst of crumpled brown decaying leaves, I sometimes find a splash of green on the woodland floor. Bending down to get a closer look, I see that it is one of my favorite ground plants – wintergreen. It is a small shrub, a mere three to four inches tall, often hidden from view by blueberries, huckleberries and other shrubs during the growing season. It becomes a winter jewel once the deciduous plants lose their leaves.
This small plant has shiny, oval, dark, evergreen leaves that when broken give off the familiar and fragrant oil of wintergreen. When the weather turns brutally cold, its leaves turn crimson in color. You may even find the red berries the wintergreen produces.
Although the midwinter forest may seem lifeless, there is still much life to be discovered during walks at this time of year.