But you have to get your eyes down at ground level to be able to appreciate it, because this plant is only about six inches tall. The waxy flowers nod at the ends of red stems. The petals are reflexed, and at the center of each flower is a large (relatively speaking!) green stigma, surrounded by forked pollen-bearing stamens. Pipsissewa is usually pollinated by bumblebees, after which the flower raises its head, ever so slowly, and then develops into a brown capsule full of tiny seeds.
Chimaphila means “winter-loving,” referring to the plant’s evergreenness. Also known as Spotted Wintergreen, this little woody plant’s dark green leaves with white midribs make it a particularly cheerful sight on cold winter days. The name Pipsissewa means “breaks into small pieces,” referring to Native Americans’ use of it to treat kidney stones. Science has confirmed some medicinal properties.
There is something really, really appealing about this little plant. Is it the modesty of the flower or the unexpectedness of it blooming on the now-darkened forest floor? No matter! Just get down and enjoy this rare beauty while it lasts.