E-Flora BC: Electronic Atlas of the Flora of British Columbia

Gaultheria humifusa (Graham) Rydb.
alpine-wintergreen (alpine spicywintergreen)
Ericaceae (Crowberry family)

Introduction to Vascular Plants

© Virginia Skilton  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #4834)

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Distribution of Gaultheria humifusa
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Species Information

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Low, trailing shrub, to 3 cm tall; stems prostrate or ascending, to 10 cm long, glabrous or finely-hairy, sometimes with longer, reddish hairs, not glandular.
Alternate, evergreen, leathery, broadly egg-shaped or oval to nearly elliptic, 1-2 (2.5) cm long, 0.5-1.5 cm wide, rounded to blunt at tips, entire to inconspicuously toothed, margins thickened.
Solitary in leaf axils; flower stalks short, with 3-5 bractlets; corollas bell-shaped, 5-lobed, pinkish, 3-4 mm long; calyces glabrous, cleft to near the middle; stamens included, anthers opening by terminal pores, without awns.
Berrylike, reddish, globe-shaped, fleshy, 5-7 mm wide.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia

Habitat / Range

Moist to wet streambanks and meadows in the subalpine and alpine zones; infrequent in S BC; E to S AB, and S to N CA and CO.

Source: The Illustrated Flora of British Columbia


Ecological Framework for Gaultheria humifusa

The table below shows the species-specific information calculated from
original data (BEC database) provided by the BC Ministry of Forests and Range.
(Updated August, 2013)

Site Information
Value / Class




Elevation (metres) 622 1641 2500
Slope Gradient (%) 0 27 97
Aspect (degrees)
[0 - N; 90 - E; 180 - S; 270 - W]
0 200 360
Soil Moisture Regime (SMR)
[0 - very xeric; 4 - mesic;
8 - hydric]
0 3 8
Modal Nutrient Regime
Number of field plots
 species was recorded in:
Modal BEC Zone Class
All BEC Zones (# of stations/zone) species was recorded in: AT(2), BWBS(1), CMA(1), CWH(8), ESSF(101), ICH(6), IMA(2), MH(32), MS(5), SBS(6)

Ecological Indicator Information

A shade-intolerant, subalpine to alpine, Western North American evergreen shrub distributed equally in the Pacific and Cordilleran regions. Occurs in alpine tundra and subalpine boreal climates on fresh to very moist, nitrogen-poor soils. Common in non-forested (heath and krummholz) and open-canopy forested communities on water-shedding sites with prolonged snow-lie. Often grows with Rhododendron albijlorum and Vaccinium membranaceum. An oxylophytic species characteristic of Mor humus forms.

SourceIndicator Plants of Coastal British Columbia (Information applies to coastal locations only)


The climate type for this species, as reported in the: "British Columbia plant species codes and selected attributes. Version 6 Database" (Meidinger et al. 2008), is alpine tundra & boreal.

Taxonomic and Nomenclatural Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References