Gaultheria Procumbens. Mountain-Tea. Tea-Berry.

Botanical name: 

Table 15. Gaultheria procumbens. Trailing Gaultheria. Partridge-berry. Winter-green. Tea-berries. Berried-tea. Grouse-berry. Deer berries. Ground-holly. Ground-ivy. Spice-berry.

Germ. Niederliegende Gaultheria.
Swedish. Thebuske.
Eng. The trailing Gaultheria.
Canada. (By the Indians) Pollom.

Eine kleine Staude, mit rothen Beeren; In Canada trinket man die Blätter wie Thee, daher der Schwedische Name Thebuske. Kalm hat sie Gaultheria genannt, nach einem Französischen Arzt in Canada, namens Gualthier, oder Gaulthier, dessen Kenntnisse in der Botanick errühmt.
(Polyglot. Lex.)

Gaultheria procumbens. Kalm.
Amoen. Acad. 3. p. 14.
Duham. Arb. 1. p. 286. t. 113.
Mill. Dict. Willd. Arb. 125.
Tournef. inst. 608.
Cold. Noveb. 98.
Houttuyn Lin. Pfl. Syst. 3. p. 573.
Lin. Sp. Pl. 565.
Shoepf. Mat. Med. p. 67.
Willd. Sp. Pl. Tom. II. pars I. p. 616.
Bot. Repos.
Pursh. Fl. Am. Sep. vol. 1. p. 283.
Muhl. Cat. p. 44.
Bart. Prod. Pl. Ph. p. 49.
Big. Florida Bost. p. 101.
Mich. Fl. Boreali-Am. vol. 1. p. 249.
Pers. Syn. Pl. vol. 1. p. 482.
Lin. Gen. 220.
Schreb. 295.
Ait. Hort. Kew. 2d. ed. vol. 3. p. 56.
Mart. MM. Dict. v. 2.
Lamark. Illust. t. 367.
Gaert. t. 63.
And. Repos. 1. 116.

Gaultheria. (Kalm.)

Gen. Plant. ed. Schreb. n. 749,

Cal. exterior 2-phyllus; interior 5-fidus. Cor. ovata. Nectarium mucronibus 10. Caps. 5-loculaiis, vestita calyce interiore baccata. (Willd. Sp. Pl.)

Cal. 5-fidus, basi bibracteatus. Cor. ovata. Caps. 5-locularis, vestita calyce baccato.
(Pursh. Fl. Am. Sep.)
Nat. Syst. Juss. Ericae. Classis X. Ordo. III.

Gaultheria, Kalm. L. * Vitis idea, T. * Calix campanulatus 5-fidus, extus 2-squamosus. Corolla ovata, limbo sub-5-fido revoluto. Stamina 10, imx corollx inserta, filamentis hirsutis, antheris apice 2-cornibus; squamulse 10, filamentis interjects minima, germen cingentes. Capsula 5-locularis 5-valvis, tecta calice baccato, supra pervio. Sujfrutex humillirmis; folia alterna aut fasciculata; flores axillares subsolitarii.
Juss. Gen. Plant. p. 161.
Nat. Ord. Lin. Bicornes.
Classis, Decandria. Ord. Monogynia, Lin. Syst.

Gen. Ch. Cal. Perianth inferior, permanent, of one leaf, five-cleft, bell-shaped \ its segments halfovate. Cor. of one petal, ovate, slightly five-cleft; limb small, revolute Nectary of ten awlshaped, erect, very short bodies, surrounding the germen between the stamens. Stam. Filaments ten, awl-shaped, incurved, shorter than the corolla, inserted into the receptacle; anthers with two cloven horns. Pist. Germen superior, roundish, depressed; style cylindrical, the length of the corolla; stigma obtuse. Peric. Capsule roundish, obtusely pentagonal, depressed, of five cells and five valves, opening at the top in five places, clothed all round with the perianth, become a roundish, coloured berry, open at the summit. Seeds numerous, nearly ovate, angular, bony.

Ess. Ch. Calyx inferior, five-cleft, permanent. Corolla ovate. Nectary of ten awl-shaped points. Capsule of five cells, clothed with the pulpy calyx. Ency.

Gaultheria procumbens, foliis oblongo-obovatis mucronatis dentatis confertis, caule procumbente.
Willd. Sp. Pl.

Gaultheria procumbens, caule procumbente, ramis erectis, inferne nudis, superne confertim foliosis, obovatis basi acutis tenuissime ciliato-dentatis, floribus paucis terminalibus nutantibus.
Willd. in Pursh. Fl. Sep. Am.


Vitis Idaea Canadensis, pyrols folio. Tournef.
Anonyma pedunculis arcuatis. Cold. Noveb.

Pharm. Gaultheris folia.
Qual. Fol. amaro-aromatica; Fr. sapore et odore dulci, grato.
Usus. Foliormn infusum theiforme. Shoepf. Mat. Med.

Descriptio Uberior.

Fructiculus spithamaeus, sempervirens. Radix repens. Folia ovalia, vel obovata, glabra, coriacea cauleln terminantia; serraturis aristatis. Flores plerumque solitarii, axillares, pedunculis arcuatis nutantibus. Calix basi bi-bracteatus. Corolla alba. Fructus ex calice facta; baccseformis sub-rotunda, coccinea, esculenta. Planta in montibus et montosis gaudens. Habitat a Canada ad Floridam usque, solo arido, sterili, arenoso. Floret Junio. Bart. Fl. Ph. MS.

This pretty little evergreen shrubby plant, is very generally known by the country people, among whom it is much esteemed for its agreeable aromatic flavour, and extensively used, in the way I shall presently mention.

It belongs to a small genus dedicated by Kalm to D. D. Gautier, a physician formerly of Canada, and an excellent botanist. How the letters I and h have crept into the word, it is not easy to learn. since the real name of the physician whom it was designed to honour, was Gautier, unless by latinizing the French Gamier, which is Gualtherius. In the Am. Acad, there is a paper by L. J. Chenon, entitled JSova Plantarum Genera, in which the plant now under consideration is described, and it is there said that it is called after Dr.Gaulthier. As the genus is now universally spelled Gaultheria, it is not expedient to alter its orthography: but as in Pursh's plate of Gaultheria Shallon, in Shoepf's Materia Medica, and in some other botanical vorks, the different orthography Gualtheria has been used, it is proper to notice it in this place. The specific appellation is not very appropriate; for though the stems frequently are bent in the manner of one or two represented in the plate, thereby having the appearance, among dead leaves and loom, of being procumbent, yet the upright position of the stem, as shewn in the other examples of the figure, is equally common.

The root is creeping, horizontal, and very long, sending up at short distances, one, and sometimes two, stems. The stem seldom exceeds a span in height; is round, of a reddish colour, and terminated by a few evergreen oval, smooth, shining, coriaceous leaves, paler underneath, and somewhat spreading. They have a few acuminated or aristated serratures, and short red petioles. They vary in size, as represented in the drawing. The flowers are generally solitary, seldom exceeding 3 or 5 on a stem, and supported by curved drooping peduncles, of a yellowish-green hue. Calix five-toothed, furnished with two bracts at the base, which have by rjome been considered as an exterior calix. The corolla is ovate, monopetalous and terminated at its apex by five, toothed indentures, which are seldom open or spreading in shady woods, though this sometimes happens in sunny and exposed situations. The pistil is short, simple above; dilated into a flat button at bottom; and surrounded by ten citiated or plumous stamens. Both filaments and anthers are of a delicate rose colour. The flowers are succeeded by small capsules contained in a roundish, berry-form, fleshy substance, of a carmine colour, produced by an enlargement of the calix. It possesses an aromatic peculiar flavour, and is extremely grateful to the taste.

This plant is found throughout the United States in shady, hilly woods, delighting in a sandy or loose soil. It is particularly abundant in the pine barrens of New Jersey, and frequent on the hilly woods bordering the Wissahickon creek, near this city. The time of flowering is in June and July. It is brought to the Jersey market of this city in the months of November and December, tied up in little bunches, which are sold for a cent each; and from the avidity with which they are bought up I infer that the plant is in general use among the common people, it being such only who buy it.

Gaultheria procumbens is a hardy plant, and is said to be easily cultivated in England, [It was cultivated in that country as early as 1762, by Ph. Miller.] by placing it in a light sandy loam, with a mixture of peat earth 5 and that it flowers and bears fruit in that country most part of the year.

An interesting fact has been mentioned to me by Joseph Ball, Esq. of this city, which merits further enquiry. It is, that the deer are extremely fond of the berries of this plant, and that they eagerly devour them wherever they are found. He further informs me, that it is a common opinion among the country people, to whom this fact is well known, that the peculiar and delicate flavour of venison is owing to this favourite food of the animal. Upon adverting to the geographical range of the Gaultheria, T find that it is one of the commonest plants in those sections of our country where the deer are found; and one of the common names of the plant throughout the United States, Deer-berry, is sufficient evidence of the fact, that it is a favourite article of food for that animal. It might not be uninteresting to try the effect of these berries, as food, upon sheep, or other animals prepared in their young state for our tables. It is now, I believe, not doubted, that the peculiar delicacy of the flesh of the Anas vallisneria (of Wilson), or the common canvass-back duck, is owing to its feeding upon the Vallisneria Americana (or channelweed); for when so situated as to be deprived of the opportunity of feeding on this article, the flesh loses that delicious flavour for which it is otherwise so remarkable.

Medical Properties.

Mountain-tea is one of the most favourite indigenous medicinal articles among the peasantry of those parts of our country where it is abundant. In common with many popular remedies, its virtues are frequently overrated, and its use injudiciously resorted to. This circumstance in other vegetables as well as in this, arises from an ignorance of the real powers or effects of the plant, which is supposed by vague rumours to be endued with virtues to which it has no claim. Hence appears the usefulness of an exact appreciation of the qualities of reputed medicinal plants. The name, mountaintea implies, that the plant under notice is used in infusion like common tea; and actual inquiries through various sections of our country have convinced me, that it is extensively employed as a medicinal tea, and with decided good effect. The whole plant is endued with an aromatic flavour, combined with some astringency. It is a stimulant and anodyne. Shoepf says that the leaves have an aromatic bitterness; but this bitterness, if any, is very inconsiderable. The astringency of the hot infusion is certainly not greater than that of strong green tea. I have heard many vague accounts of the efficacy of the infusion as a palliative in asthma j but though they con vinced me that it was frequently employed in this complaint, they never appeared sufficiently well founded to warrant much attention. Dr. Barton seemed to think that this plant was one of the principal articles in the materia medica of some of our Indian tribes. But it is not known for what purpose they use it, nor what virtues they attribute to it. The professor speaks of having used a strong infusion of the plant, but does not say particularly what was his success with it. The country people are in the constant habit of taking strong infusions of this tea, after great fatigue and undue exposure to heat or cold; and the relief they find from it under these circumstances, arises doubtless from its stimulating and anodyne property. As it is a very grateful beverage, though not very active in its effects on the system, it will no doubt always prove a useful medicinal tea, when its use is limited to those cases of depression of the system, from the fatigue of long journies, labour, or any other cause, in which stimulating and refreshing beverages maybe advantageously employed. But as I have known it to be given in the commencement of violent inflammatory fevers, where the increased action of the system rendered it improper and even hurtful, it may be prudent to caution those who are partial to the use of the plant, against a practice capable of so much injury.

Oeconomical Use.

The berries of this plant are, as has been already mentioned, exceedingly aromatic and grateful to the taste. Joseph Ball, Esq. has informed me that it is a common practice in Jersey to infuse them in brandy or spirit, for the purpose of making a beverage which is taken in small quantities in the same way as common bitters. The same gentleman has also informed me, that during the American revolution, when China tea was scarce, or not procurable, it was a common practice to make a tea of the recent or dried leaves of the Gaultheria, and after being sweetened with sugar and softened with milk or cream, it was drank by many families at breakfast and supper, in lieu of common tea or coffee. He says also that it is at this time frequently used by the country people in Jersey, in the manner just mentioned.

Table XV.

Fig. 1. Represents the Gaultheria procumbens of its natural size, and in the common manner of its growth from a long creeping root.
2. The germ, pistil, and stamens aggregated in their common form.
3. A stamen.
4. The pistil.
5. The fleshy, berry-like fruit.

Vegetable Materia Medica of the U.S. or Medical Botany, 1817 (Vol. I), 1818 (Vol. II), was written by William P. C. Barton, M. D.