Wintergreens & Allies

Round-leaved Wintergreen Yellow Bird's-nest Common Wintergreen Yellow Bird's-nest

What are they?

This small group of species consists of an interesting set of plants that are all rather small, discrete and easily overlooked. The wintergreens were formerly placed in their own family, the Pyrolaceae, while Yellow Bird's-nest was also in its own family, the Monotropaceae, but more recently, these plants have been grouped together with the heaths and heathers in the Ericaceae. The wintergreens have a basal rosette of leaves with the flowers arranged in a vertical spike. Yellow Bird's-nest is a peculiar plant that grows as a bundle of thread-like, underground roots. A central 'core' produces buds that grow upward in season to produce leafless stems, topped with a cluster of flowers. The plants contain no chlorophyll and thus no green parts and the leaves are reduced to scales on the flowering stem.

Where are they found?

These species are all rare in East Anglia and confined to a small handful of locations. The wintergreens favour wet hollows on acid soils in bogs and dune slacks, while Yellow Bird's-nest crops up from time to time in rather scattered locations, usually on sandy soils where plantation forest is present. This might suggest that East Anglian populations are all - or mostly - introduced during the tree planting stage.

Identification

The species occurring in our region can be separated quite easily by leaf (or absence of!) and flower detail.



Common Wintergreen      Pyrola minor

Native but rare in a handful of wet habitats on acid soils in Norfolk, but perhaps now only at a single site. Flowers June to August. Leaves relatively thin, yellowish-green in colour. Flowers white, or tinged pinkish.

Common Wintergreen Common Wintergreen Common Wintergreen Common Wintergreen
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Round-leaved Wintergreen      Pyrola rotundifolia

Native but rare in a handful of wet habitats on acid soils in Norfolk, but and at a single site in East Suffolk. Flowers June to August. Leaves relatively thick, dark green in colour.

Round-leaved Wintergreen Round-leaved Wintergreen Round-leaved Wintergreen Round-leaved Wintergreen
Flowers
Flowers
Flowers
Leaf


Yellow Bird's-nest      Hypopitys monotropa

Native but rare in a handful of sandy woodland sites and coastal dune slacks. Populations seem often to be short lived, perhaps suggesting that they have been inadvertently introduced but find conditions unsuitable for sustained growth. Flowers June to August. Leafless, saprophytic plants, sending up yellowish stems with scale-like leaves and a cluster of flowers at the top. This species is easily confused with the broomrapes and toothworts, but note that the flower spikes have a drooping tip, whereas broomrapes are always upright to the tip, while the flowers have no purple tint to them.

Yellow Bird's-nest Yellow Bird's-nest Yellow Bird's-nest Yellow Bird's-nest
Habit
Habit
Flowers
Flowers