Wildflowers of the Adirondacks:
One-sided Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda)

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park: One-sided Wintergreen on the Heron Marsh Trail (28 June 2012).
Wildflowers of the Adirondacks: One-sided Wintergreen's white or greenish flowers hang on one side of the stem. This species blooms in late June and early July in the Adirondacks. One-sided Wintergreen on the Heron Marsh Trail (28 June 2012).

One-sided Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) is a small native wildflower which produces white flowers in early summer in the Adirondack Mountains. This plant is the sole species in the genus Orthilia. One-sided Wintergreen is a member of the Heath Family.

The common name reflects the fact that the flowers are gathered on one side of the bent stem. The name "wintergreen" refers to the fact that the leaves remain green throughout the winter. The plant is also referred to as One-sided Shinleaf, Sidebells Wintergreen, and One-sided Pyrola. The latter name reflects the fact that it was once included in Pyrola – a larger genus of species that inhabits damp woods. The name Orthilia is from the Greek word "orthos," which means straight.

Identification of One-sided Wintergreen

One-sided Wintergreen is a small, evergreen perennial which grows three to eight inches tall. The flowering stem is smooth and green or red-tinged. The basal leaves are round to oval and rather glossy. The leaves are ½ to 2 inches long and ¼ to 1¼ inches wide. They are either toothless or finely toothed around the edges.

The five-parted flowers of the One-sided Wintergreen are white or pale green and urn-shaped. The flowers dangle in a cluster from a single unbranched stem. Each flower is about ¼ inch wide with several cream-tipped stamens and a protruding straight style.

One-sided Wintergreen flowers in mid-summer in the Adirondack Mountains. A tally of flowering dates for the upland Adirondack areas compiled by Michael Kudish, based on data collected from the early seventies to the early nineties, notes that the flowering dates for this species extend from 30 June through 16 July.

The fruit consists of spherical, 5-chambered, nodding capsules about ¼ inch in diameter. The fruit develops in late summer.

Uses of One-sided Wintergreen

This plant has very limited uses. The leaves are said to have been used as a tea. A strong decoction of the root was reportedly used by one native North American group as an eye wash.

Wildlife Value of One-sided Wintergreen

No wildlife uses were found.

Distribution of One-sided Wintergreen

The distribution of this species covers all of Canada, the northeastern US, and the western US. One-sided Wintergreen is listed as threatened in Iowa and Rhode Island, presumed extirpated in Ohio, endangered and extirpated in Maryland, extirpated in Indiana, and a plant of special concern in Connecticut.

This species has been documented in most counties in New York State, including all counties within the Adirondack Park Blue Line.

Habitat of One-sided Wintergreen

One-sided Pyrola grows in moist mixed and coniferous woods in the Adirondack Mountains and throughout the north woods region. It is not a common plant in the Adirondacks. This plant can be seen on the Heron Marsh Trail at the Paul Smiths VIC. Look for it growing near Pipsissewa, Bunchberry, and Wintergreen.


Michael Kudish. Adirondack Upland Flora: An Ecological Perspective (The Chauncy Press, 1992), p. 146.

New York Flora Association.  New York Flora Atlas. One-sided-wintergreen (Orthilia secunda)Retrieved 6 May 2017.

United States Department of Agriculture. The Plants Database. Sidebells Wintergreen. Orthilia secunda (L.) House.  Retrieved 6 May 2017.

Flora of North America. Orthilia secunda (Linnaeus) House.  Retrieved 6 May 2017.  

NatureServe Explorer. Online Encyclopedia of Life.  One-sided Wintergreen. Orthilia secunda - (L.) House. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

New England Wildflower Society. Go Botany. One-sided-shinleaf. Orthilia secunda (L.) House.  Retrieved 6 May 2017.

New York State. Adirondack Park Agency. Preliminary List of Species Native Within the Adirondack Park Listed Alphabetically by Scientific Name and Sorted by Habit. Volume 1. Updated 10.23.2006, p. 29. Retrieved 26 January 2017.

Connecticut Botanical Society.  Orthilia secunda (L.) House. One-sided Pyrola. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

University of Wisconsin. Flora of Wisconsin.  Orthilia secunda (L.) House. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

Minnesota Wildflowers. Orthilia secunda (One-sided Pyrola). Retrieved 6 May 2017.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Orthilia secunda (L.) House. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

Plants for a Future. Orthilia secunda - (L.) House. Retrieved 6 May 2017.

University of Michigan. Native American Ethnobotany. A Database of Foods, Drugs, Dyes and Fibers of Native American Peoples, Derived from Plants.  Orthilia secunda (L.) House.  Retrieved 6 May 2017.

Doug Ladd. North Woods Wildflowers (Falcon Publishing, 2001), p. 210.

Lawrence Newcomb. Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (Little Brown and Company, 1977), pp. 178-179.

Roger Tory Peterson and Margaret McKenny. A Field Guide to Wildflowers. Northeastern and North-central North America (Houghton Mifflin Company, 1968), pp. 26-27.

National Audubon Society. Field Guide to Wildflowers. Eastern Region (Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), pp. 718-719.

Wildflowers of the Adirondack Park

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