Pipsissewa is an evergreen, so it has green leaves year-round (meaning it can complete photosynthesis throughout the year). However it also meets a substantial portion of it’s nutritional needs through symbiotic relationships with fungi that live in the soil (that is, it is a partial myco-heterotroph) around it. This makes it extremely difficult to cultivate, since the fungi it naturally grows with are needed for it to do thrive …
“Pipsissewa” is a Cree name meaning “It-breaks-into-small-pieces”. This is due to it’s use as a treatment for kidney stones.
“Chimaphila” is derived from the Greek words “cheima”, for “winter” and “philos” for loving — this is due to the fact that it is an evergreen.
* Leaves are tasty to nibble on.
* Both the leaves, and roots make a delicious tea.
* It was a primary ingredient in root beer, long ago.
* Pipsissewa was used as a medicine for a variety of ailments, by tribes ranging throughout N. America, and is still used today by modern “mainstream” medical practitioners.
* The Flathead and Kutenai Indians used it primarily as an eye medicine. Kutenai Indians also used a tea made from this plant for kidney trouble. [[usfs — idaho panhandle]]
References / Bibliography
- Plants For A Future — Chimaphila umbellata
- Botanical.com — Pipsissewa
- USDA Plants DB — Chimaphila umbellata
- Wikipedia — Chimaphila umbellata
- USFS — Wildflowers of N. Idaho
Also try using the full species name “Chimaphila umbellata” as a search phrase in the Native American Ethnobotany Database.