Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)

Small, evergreen understory herb and groundcover;  has specific mycorrhizal associations that must be retained for plant to thrive.


Chimaphila umbellata UK: Umbellate wintergreen DK: Bittergronn FI: Sarjatalvikki FR: Chimaphile a Ombelles NL: Pipsissewa IT: Chimafila HU: Ernyőskörtike DE: Dolden-Winterlieb PL: Pomocnik baldaszkowy SK: zimoľub okolíkatý CZ: zimozelen okolíkatý ES: Quimafila SE: Ryl


Range:  Circumboreal, throughout North America, Northern Eurasia


Climate, Elevation:  Temperate; Low to middle elevations


Local Occurrence:  Uncommon in Coastal forests of Pacific Northwest, though locally abundant at some sites, more common in interior.


Habitat Preference:  Well-drained sites in coniferous forests.


Plant Strategy:  Facultative seral species; shade tolerant; reproduction by seeds and rhizomes.


Associated Species:  Found under nearly all western conifer species; some associate species include Rocky Mountain maple (Acer glabrum), Pacific yew (Taxus brevifolia), Saskatoon  serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia), honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.), currant (Ribes spp.), baldhip rose (Rosa gymnocarpa), huckleberry (Vaccinium spp.), salal (Gaultheria shallon), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), queencup beadlily (Clintonia uniflora), sweet-scented bedstraw (Galium trifolium), threeleaf foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata), oneleaf foamflower (T. unifoliata), starry Solomon-seal (Smilacina

stellata), Pacific trillium (Trillium ovatum), violet (Viola spp.)


May be Collected As:  Seed; Cuttings, Rhizomes


Collection Guidelines/Restrictions:  Due to overharvest by softdrink industry to produce rootbeer, as well as extensive wildcrafting, this plant is struggling in many locales.  Collect only from relatively healthy populations and avoid excessive root disturbance.  Collect small amount of (inoculated) soil from around established plants.  Collect seeds by tapping dehisced fruits to dislodge seeds into a jar or bag.  However, it may be easier to collect closed capsules before they dehisce, then dry and macerate to recover the seeds.  With this technique however, seed maturity is not assured.  Collect rhizomes and cuttings in spring.


Seed Germination:  Sow as soon as ripe on moist peat with small amount of inoculated soil from parent site.  It is very possible however that seeds that have germinated in trials are actually seeds already within the soil seed bank rather than those collected and sown.  This suggests that extensive stratification may be required.  Efforts to germinate Chimaphila have met almost entirely with failure, therefore it may be easier to propagate from cuttings and rhizomes


Seed Life and Storage:  Unknown


Propagation Recommendations:  Rhizome divisions and cuttings.  Soil seedbank from existing patches.


Soil/Medium Requirements:  Grows in a wide range of soil types.


Installation Form:  As whole plant, with soil from parent site or nursery pot.  It is important to note that based on this plants high sensitivity to disturbance, it is unlikely to make a good restoration site candidate. 


Planting Density:  Unknown


Care Requirements:  At all costs, avoid trampling or excessive site disturbance.


Normal Rate of Growth/Lifespan:  Spread by rhizomes is reported to be very rapid, with individual rhizomes stretching several meters and supporting many offshoots.  Plants live for many years, with individual leaves persisting for seven-eight years before falling away.










Franklin, Jerry F., C.T. Dyrness.  Natural Vegetation of Oregon and Washington. Oregon State University Press. 1973.


Pojar, J. and A. MacKinnon. Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast-Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alaska. B.C. Ministry of Forest and Lone Pine Publishing. 1994.

Data compiled by S. Kachel  Spring 2006