Pyrola minor (Small Shinleaf)

Plant Info
Also known as: Lesser Wintergreen
Family:Ericaceae (Heath)
Life cycle:perennial
  • State Special Concern
Habitat:part shade, shade; moist, cool forests and conifer swamps
Bloom season:July
Plant height:4 to 6 inches
Wetland Indicator Status:GP: FACU MW: none NCNE: FAC
MN county distribution (click map to enlarge):Minnesota county distribution map
National distribution (click map to enlarge):National distribution map

Pick an image for a larger view. See the glossary for icon descriptions.

Detailed Information

Flower: Flower shape: 5-petals Cluster type: raceme

[photo of flowers] Raceme of 3 to 11 nodding flowers on short stalks at the top of the stem. Flowers are white, often tinged with pink and/or green, the 5 rounded, oval petals typically barely opening, making a globe-like blossom ¼ to 1/3 inch across. The brown-tipped stamens are mostly hidden under the petals with the short, straight and greenish, 5-parted style just extended to the flower opening.

[photo of sepals] The 5 sepals are triangular, light green or tinged red, and about ¼ as long as the petals.

Leaves and stems: Leaf attachment: basal Leaf type: simple

[photo of leaves] The leaves are basal or nearly so, the thin blade broadly elliptic or nearly round, ¾ to 1-1/8 inch long and ½ to 1 inch wide with smooth surfaces and minutely toothed edges, the slender stalk ½ to 1¼ inches long. The single stem of the flower stalk is erect and smooth


Small Shinleaf is the rarest of Minnesota's five Pyrola species and also its smallest. It spreads by underground stems (rhizomes) and can be found in colonies of a few to dozens of plants. While it may be confused with our two other white pyrolas, Round-leaved Pyrola (Pyrola americana) and Shinleaf (Pyrola elliptica), both of these have flowers that open widely, with a long curved style that hangs below the flower like an elephant's trunk. The leaves of Small Shinleaf resemble those of One-sided Pyrola (Orthilia secunda) and may be found growing right next to it, but the one-sided flowering stem of O. secunda sets these two apart. Small Shinleaf is also a far northern species, its range is restricted to cool, moist upland forests and swamps of Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties with the vast majority in Cook. Pyrola minor was listed by the DNR as a Special concern species in 1996. It is listed as Endangered in Wisconsin.

Please visit our sponsors

  • Minnesota Native Plant Society

Where to buy native seed and plants ↓

Map of native plant purveyors in the upper midwest

  • Morning Sky Greenery - Native Prairie Plants
  • Minnesota Native Landscapes - Your Ecological Problem Solvers
  • Natural Shore Technologies - Using science to improve land and water
  • Itasca Ladyslipper Farm - Native orchids, container grown
  • Prairie Restorations - Bringing people together with the land

More photos

Photos by K. Chayka and Peter M. Dziuk taken in Cook County.


Have you seen this plant in Minnesota, or have any other comments about it?

Posted by: Pam Troje - Itasca County on County Rd 4 near Sand Lake Mn. In the Chip
on: 2020-06-26 21:14:16

Walking with friends we were were looking at the blooming Lady Slippers and saw these plants near by. We couldn’t see the leaves at the bottom because of all the grasses. I looked at all the plants online that grow in MN and couldn’t find it . A book my mother gave me of flower drawings, bought in the 80’s is where I found it.... maybe. Wild flowers of America by H.W. Rickety. I hope it is right. It looked like coral bells.

Posted by: K. Chayka
on: 2020-06-27 06:24:15

Pam, what you saw was probably a different Pyrola. If you thought it resembled coral bells, which has pink flowers, then it was likely pink pyrola, which is common in Itasca County.

Post a comment

Note: All comments are moderated before posting to keep the riff-raff out. An email address is required, but will not be posted—it will only be used for information exchange between the 2 of us (if needed) and will never be given to a 3rd party without your express permission.

For info on subjects other than plant identification (gardening, invasive species control, edible plants, etc.), please check the links and invasive species pages for additional resources.


Note: Comments or information about plants outside of Minnesota and neighboring states may not be posted because Id like to keep the focus of this web site centered on Minnesota. Thanks for your understanding.