A large and interesting family, of very wide geographic distribution, in temperate and cold regions; herbs, shrubs, or trees; the leaves undivided, without stipules; the flowers mostly perfect; the calyx with four or five divisions; the corolla usually regular, with four or five, usually united, petals; the stamens inserted under the pistil, usually as many, or twice as many, as the petals; the ovary usually superior, with one style; the fruit a capsule, berry, or stone-fruit, usually with many small seeds.

There are many kinds of Gaultheria, mostly of the Andes; ours are evergreen shrubs, with alternate, aromatic leaves and nodding flowers; the calyx five-cleft; the corolla more or less urn-shaped, with five teeth; the stamens ten; the fruit a berry, composed of the fleshy calyx surrounding the ovary and containing many seeds. The Wintergreen, or Checkerberry, used for flavoring, belongs to this genus.