This is a truly odd plant. It isn’t deciduous: it doesn’t lose its leaves in the winter.
Neither is it evergreen, keeping them all year around. Instead, it has
a single leaf at ground level that emerges in the fall and persists until spring. The
leaf is “wintergreen,” and the species name, hyemale, means “winter.”
plant does this. (Putty root is not related to wintergreen—“wintergreen” literally means “stays green
through the winter,” not “tasty flavor.”) Roots of this plant were crushed
to produce a gluelike fluid, used variously to mend items and for medicinal purposes—this is
the origin of the name “putty root.” Plants are quite rare, and tend to be scattered.
Plants: Represented by a single dark bluish-green
leaf in the winter, in summer, the plant’s single stem reaches 5-9" (13-24 cm) in height, with several
more opposite leaves and a single spike
Leaves: Leaves are oval, 3½-8" (8.9-20 cm) long, with smooth edges and sharp tips, with many prominent, roughly parallel
Flowers: The flower spike (raceme) contains 6 to 10 flowers, each ⅜-½" (1-1.4 cm) long × ¹/₁₆-⅛" (2-4 mm)
wide. Purplish-green flowers have starlike petals and sepals and three central white-purple lobes.
(Flowers may also be yellow or white, with a purplish tinge.)
Flowering is from late May to the end of June.
Fruits: Seed pods are elliptical in shape, ¾-1" (1.9-2.5 cm) long,
shiny green in color, with narrow ridges. The pods taper to a point at both ends, and contain a
large number of tiny seeds.