Plant of the day: wintergreen

Under the shade of a redwood grove, slender red stalks rise leafless from the duff. Flowers are scattered sparsely along the stalk, with those toward the bottom opening first. Five pink petals nod toward the ground. If you look underneath, you’ll see an oddly curved pistil surrounded by yellow-dusted stamen.

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This is Pyrola picta, or wintergreen. I saw it in Sonoma County, but it grows in almost all parts of the state – and in all states as far east as South Dakota. There are other types of Pyrola, but none that have been found in the bay area. In many places it has a handful of dark green leaves at its base, but around here it is almost always leafless. It also is often white instead of pink.

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