Pyrola grandiflora : Arctic Wintergreen


Scientific Name:

Kingdom: Plantae


Class: Dicoteldonae (two seed-leaves)

Family: Pyrolaceae (Wintergreen Family)

Genera: Pyrola (Wintergreen) (Gk. Pyrus = a pear tree, reffering to the resemblence of the leaves to those of a pear)

Species: grandiflora (Lat. grandis= full grown, great + flos= flower; reffering to the relatively large flowers)

Synonym(s): P. rotundifolia var. grandiflora

English Name(s):

Arctic Wintergreen, Arctic Pyrola, Large-flowered Wintergreen

First Nation Names:




  • Basal, on 1-8cm long petiole (stalk).
  • Blade 1-4.5cm long by 1-5cm wide, thick, lustrous, rounded with a nearly entire (smooth) margin.

Reproductive Parts:

  • Inflorecense a 4-11 flowered raceme (flowering stalk).
  • Flowers, scented, large
  • Petals creamy white, 7-12mm long.
  • Sepals petal like, oblong in shape, 2-4mm long.
  • Anthers (male parts) yellow, opening by pores on very short tubes at the tips.
  • Style (female parts) long, somewhat curved at maturity, with a ring below the stygma (top part).


  • Fruit is a many seeded capsule

Not to Be Confused With:

  • Could be mistaken for Pyrola chlorantha (Greenish Wintergreen) whose leaves and flowers are smaller.
  • Could also be mistaken for Pyrola minor (Lesser Wintergreen) whose style (female part) does not protrude past the petals.



  • Wintergreens grow very few feeding roots along their rhizomes (underground stems). They depend on myhorrhizal (root) fungi to get enough nutrients.

Life Cycle:

  • Perennial

Seasonal Cycle:

  • Evergreen leaves
  • Generally finnished blooming by third week of July.


Animal Uses:


  • Frequent to common in open boreal woodland
  • Sunny tundra slopes and sheltered heathlands





  • All Pyrolas contain a drug related to aspirin.
  • Fresh leaves are moistened and used as an effective counter-irritant, left on for a half an hour or longer.
  • Leaves are made into a decoction using 6ml chopped leaves boiled 20 minutes. This is said to stimulate urine flow with little irritation of the intestinal lining. Can be used for extended periods.


    Traditional Gwich'in:





            Traditional Other:


            • In astrology, Pyrolas are said to be under the influence of the Moon.



              • Leaves mixed with red wine and a little cinnamon then heated to make a decoction, were said to cure bloody stools, ulcers of the bladder, and to restrain menstruation.
              • Plant juice was taken with wine to stop bleeding of the bowels, internal wounds, and ulcers.
              • Plants were said to be astringent and antisposmatic, to increase urine flow and to act as a tonic.
              • The decoction was taken for treating skin diseases, teberculosis of the lymph glands, epilepsy and other nervous affections, was used as a gargle , and as a wash for inflammed eyes.
              • Leaves were used for skin plasters to relieve pain, reduce swelling and heal wounds and bruises.
              • Plant decoctions are considered excellent wound healers.



                Relatively large flowers

                Relatively large flowers make relatively large seed capsules

                Leathery leaves and old seed capsules

                Leathery leaves

                Illustration from: Illustrated Flora of BC

                Range Maps

                World Range: Circumpolar, arctic-alpine; wide ranging from high-arctic or alpine tundra, southward into the boreal forest; NL to AK

                Prov/State Abrev. List

                In Yukon: found throughout the territory north to Arctic coast

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