Practical ecological knowledge for the temperate reader.

Chimaphila Sp. - Prince's Pine, Pipsissewa

Family: Ericaceae - Heath

"Perennial herb, ± woody, evergreen, rhizomed.
Leaf: cauline [basal], ± whorled, lanceolate to oblanceolate, leathery, generally prominently toothed, petioled.
Inflorescence: terminal, ± head- or umbel-like raceme; flowers 1–10; peduncle generally papillate to glandular-hairy; bracts narrowly lanceolate to widely ovate.
Flower: radial, nodding, parts in 5s, free; petals spreading; stamens 10, filaments widened at base, ± hairy, anther pores on tubes; nectary present; ovary superior, style in depression, stout, stigma wide, peltate, lobes 5, ± flat, spreading.
Fruit: capsule, erect; valves opening tip to base, margins not fibrous.
4–5 species: circumboreal, North America, Central America, Eurasia. (Greek: winter loving, from evergreen habit)" [Jepson]

(Images) Chimaphila menziesii

Local Species;

  1. Chimaphila menziesii - Menzies' pipsissewa [E-flora][PCBC][[TSFTK]
  2. Chimaphila umbellata ssp occidentalis - Prince's pine [E-flora][PCBC][TSFTK]

Identification and Taxonomic Notes

1. Flowers generally 1-3; stamen filaments hairy over entire swollen portion of base; leaves lanceolate to elliptic.......Chimaphila menziesii
1. Flowers usually more than 3; stamen filaments hairy on margins only at the swollen portion of the base; leaves oblanceolate......Chimaphila umbellata ssp occidentalis [IFBC-E-flora]

Chimaphila Spp.

"...the genus now contains four to five species in Eurasia, and North and tropical America (Mabberley 1997). Northern Europe has a single species, the circumboreal C. umbellata, which has been used to treat bladder problems." [Daniel F. Austin]

"There are two American species, the official variety being described by the N. F. as " the dried leaves of Chimaphila umbellata (Linne) Barton (Fam. Ericacecae), without the presence of more than 5 per cent. of stems or other foreign matter."" [Remington USD20]

Menzies' pipsissewa - Chimaphila menziesii

Family: (Heath Family)

General: Perennial, slightly woody herb from a rhizome; stems slender, erect or nearly so, simple or sparingly branched, 5-20 cm tall, smooth, reddish.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Generally all stem leaves, 1 to several per whorl, leathery, evergreen, lanceolate to elliptic, 2-6 cm long, toothed or entire, smooth, main veins somewhat white-bordered; stalks 5-8 mm long.[IFBC-E-flora]
Habitat / Range Mesic to dry forests in the lowland and montane zones; infrequent in SW BC, rare in SE BC; S to CA.[IFBC-E-flora]

Origin Status: Native. [E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
A shade-tolerant, submontane to montane, Western North American evergreen shrub distributed more in the Pacific than the Cordilleran region. Occurs in maritime to submaritime cool mesothermal climates on moderately dry to fresh, nitrogen­medium soils; its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and continentality. Sporadic in coniferous stands on water-shedding sites (less often on water-receiving sites). Usually associated with Hylocomium splendens, Kindbergia oregana, Rhytidiadelphus loreus, and Rhytidiopsis robusta. Characteristic of mesothermal coniferous forests.(IPBC)[E-flora]

Prince's-Pine - Chimaphila umbellata

Family: Wintergreen

"Chimaphila umbellata is an evergreen Shrub growing to 0.4 m (1ft 4in) by 0.5 m (1ft 8in) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 4. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from Jul to August. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid soils and can grow in very acid soils.
It can grow in full shade (deep woodland) or semi-shade (light woodland). It prefers moist soil." [PFAF]



Origin Status: Native [E-flora]
General: Perennial, slightly woody herb from a rhizome; stems stout, erect or nearly so, often branched, 10-30 cm tall.[IFBC-E-flora]
Leaves: Generally all stem leaves, usually 3-5 per whorl, leathery, evergreen, oblanceolate, 2-7 cm long, 0.5-2.5 cm wide, sharply toothed, tips abruptly pointed, bases tapered; stalks 3-8 mm long.[IFBC-E-flora]

USDA Flower Colour: White
USDA Blooming Period: Late Spring
USDA Fruit/Seed characteristics:
Colour: Brown
Present over the summer [USDA-E-flora]

Habitat / Range
Mesic to dry forests in the montane zone; common in S BC, infrequent northward; N to SE AK, E to C AB and SK, scattered to James Bay, ON, and S to CA, NM, CO.[IFBC-E-flora]

Ecological Indicator Information
"A shade-tolerant/intolerant, sub montane to montane, circumpolar evergreen shrub (transcontinental in North America). Occurs on very dry to moderately dry, nitrogen-poor soils (Mor humus forms) within montane boreal, temperate, and cool mesothermal climates. Its occurrence decreases with increasing elevation and precipitation, and increases with increasing continentality. Sporadic to scattered in coniferous forests on water-shedding sites with coarse-skeletal soils. Typically associated with Hylocomium splendens. An oxylophytic species characteristic of moisture-deficient sites. (IPBC)" [E-flora]

Species Mentioned; C. umbellate [Leung ENCI][Turner&Bell1][Turner&Kuhnlein]

Unless otherwise mentioned, all uses below are for C. umbellata [Personal Note]


Edible Uses

Other Uses

Medicinal Uses

"Used externally in treating ulcerous sores, blisters, and others. It is also reportedly used in cancers.9" [Leung ENCI]

"Pipsissewa is used as an astringent and antispasmodic, as well as to treat anxiety, seizures, gastrointestinal disorders, and kidney stones. The most common use is as a urinary antiseptic. It is used topically to treat decubitus ulcers, venous statis ulcers, and superficial wounds." [Skidmore-Roth MHH] " This plant is stated to have been used internally by the North American Indians in scrofula and rheumatism, and was a popular remedy among the settlers of this country. It has no medicinal properties, however, beyond a feeble diuretic action and perhaps some antiseptic influence on the urine. It is occasionally prescribed for cystitis. The best preparation is the fluidextract, which may readily be made into a syrup. Dose, thirty to ninety grains (2-6 Gm.)." [Remington USD20]

Various uses around the world




"The identification of the antifungal compound as chimaphilin (1) ... This compound (1) (Fig. 1) is of significant interest since it was previously reported to have antimicrobial, antihemorrhagic and vitamin K-like activities (Hausen and Schiedermair, 1988). It also displays anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties (Kosuge et al., 1985). Its modes of action are unknown. We determined antifungal Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) values for chimaphilin (1) against S. cerevisiae, Malassezia globosa and Malassezia restricta. These values were in the range of 0.05–0.55 mg/mL ( Table 2) and were consistent with previous MIC estimates with eight fungal species including S. cerevisiae ( Saxena et al., 1996). Together with this previous report, our results with Malassezia strains indicate that chimaphilin (1) has broad-spectrum antifungal activities, including activities against fungal pathogens of humans.... The diversity of cellular processes affected by chimaphilin (1) that is evident in our GDA analysis suggests that the compound has multiple targets within the yeast cell. This is expected of an effective antifungal since multiple mutations in genes associated with diverse pathways would be necessary to gain resistance to the compound. Further assays are required to verify the inhibitory targets of chimaphilin (1). However, results from the two secondary assays performed support the notion that chimaphilin (1) interferes with cell wall and transcription processes, and provides confirmation of the veracity of the GDA approach as a whole." [AAP]

"Chimaphila umbellata (L.) W. Bart (Pyrolaceae), commonly known as pipsissewa or umbellate wintergreen, has been used by First Nations Peoples of eastern Canada as a traditional medicine for infections, inflammations of various kinds, kidney stones, gonorrhea, stomachache, backache, and coughs; it has also been used as a blood purifier, diuretic and astringent ( Arnason et al., 1981, Chevalier, 1996 and Marles et al., 2000). Some of the trends seen in this pattern of usage suggest that antimicrobial activity is exerted. Jones et al. (2000), in a survey of potential antifungal phytomedicines used by First Nations Peoples of eastern Canada, reported that extracts of C. umbellata had the greatest antifungal activity of all the materials analyzed. C. umbellata contains significant amounts of several known biologically active compounds, including arbutin, sitosterol, ursolic acid and chimaphilin (1) ( Foster and Duke, 1990). Thus, C. umbellata is an excellent candidate for further investigation as a topical antifungal agent. In this paper, we use bioassay-guided isolation to determine that chimaphilin (1) is the main antifungal principle in C. umbellata. We evaluated the antifungal activity of chimaphilin (1) against fungi involved in causing the scalp condition commonly referred to as dandruff. Antioxidant activity was also examined with C. umbellata extracts, since it is relevant to the healing of skin injuries...." [AAP]


"... C. umbellata extract possesses an interesting antioxidant activity consistent with traditional uses such as in anti-inflammatory remedies and wound healing. We hypothesize that the antioxidant activity of C. umbellata extract is associated with the presence of flavonoids such as quercetin and isoquercetin in the plant ( Duke, 1992). However, chimaphilin (1) may also play an antioxidant role, since other naphthaquinones such as plumbagin and shikonin have shown promising antioxidant activities ( Tilak et al., 2004 and Nishizawa et al., 2005)." [AAP]

Prince's-PineChimaphila umbellata [Turner, Kuhnlein]

Part:GreensPer 100 g fresh weight
Food Energy (Kcal)-Ash (g)-Potassium (mg)93
Water (g)-Thiamine (mg)-Magnesium (mg)37
Protein (g)0.7Riboflavin (mg)-Calcium (mg)100
Fat (g)-Niacin (mg)-Phosphorus (mg)15
Crude Fiber (g)-Vitamin A (RE)-Iron (mg)1
Zinc (mg)0.6Manganese (mg)3Copper (mg)0.1
Chloride (mg)2.4 - -


"Requires a light moist but well-drained lime-free soil and shade from direct sunlight[1]. This species is difficult to propagate and grow in cultivation, mainly because it has certain mycorrhizal associations in the wild and these are necessary if the plant is to thrive[200]. It is best to use some soil collected from around an established plant when sowing seed or planting out into a new position[200]. The plant has wide-spreading fibrous feeding roots and will often die or fail to increase in size if these are disturbed. The flowers have a sweet but refreshing perfume[245]." [PFAF]


"Seed - this is very difficult to germinate, see the notes above in cultivation details. It is best sown in a shady area of the greenhouse on moist sphagnum peat as soon as it is ripe. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in a shady position in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Division. Rather difficult because the plant is very sensitive to root disturbance. It is best attempted in the spring as the plant comes into growth[200]. Cuttings of softwood, June in a frame. Use some soil from around an established plant[14]." [PFAF]

Vegetative: "Take stem cuttings during the summer and root in a sand and peat medium. Outplant rooted cuttings in late spring with a 15-20 cm spacing (Time Life, Inc. 1996). Prince's pine produces long, fast-growing rhizomes. Those that are near the soil surface are able to produce new shoots (Matthews 1994). Prince's pine can also be propagated by division of underground stems (Time Life, Inc. 1996)." [PPNWNP]


  1. [AAP] Antifungal and antioxidant activities of the phytomedicine pipsissewa, Chimaphila umbellate, Imelda J. Galván, Nadereh Mir-Rashed, Matthew Jessulat, Monica Atanyab, Ashkan Golshani, Tony Durst, Philippe Petit, Virginie Treyvaud Amiguet, Teun Boekhout, Richard Summerbell, Isabel Cruz, John T. Arnason, Myron L. Smith, Phytochemistry Volume 69, Issue 3, February 2008, Pages 738–746
  2. [E-flora] menziesii&redblue=Both&lifeform=12
    1. [E-flora] Chimaphila umbellata
  3. [Jepson] Gary D. Wallace & Erich Haber, 2012. Chimaphila, in Jepson Flora Project (eds.) Jepson eFlora,, accessed on Mar 26 2014
  4. [], Accessed April 11, 2015
  5. [UMD-Eth]

Other Sp.

Chimaphila maculata - Spotted Wintergreen

Journals of Interest


Page last modified on Sunday, March 28, 2021 8:33 AM