The evergreen perennial Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica) is often only noticed at this time of year, when it is flowering. The flower is distinctive in that the prominent style of the female pistil is proportionally far longer than in most flowers, and extends beyond the waxy, white petals. The common name — Shinleaf — is a reference to the medicinal properties of the plant. It contains a drug closely related to aspirin; the leaves reportedly have analgesic properties and were used as a poultice on bruised shins and other sores and wounds.
There are several species of pyrolas and they vary in leaf shape and flower color/arrangement. All of them belong to the family Ericaceae, which includes blueberries and cranberries.
Look for this four to twelve-inch plant in shady, damp woods and when you find one, peer up under the petals to see the orange-tipped male stamens.
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