What plant has oil that acts like aspirin, tastes like mint, can be used for lubrication of metals and used to be used to flavor gum? The Eastern Winterberry! This plant grows in acidic soils, often around oaks and pines. It does not flower well in deep shade but will grow in shade. It is an evergreen which means it continues to photosynthesize during the winter months.
Wintergreen grows from the root, spreading out from rhizomes. It grows low to the ground, only 2 inches or so high. It is also commonly called American Teaberry, Checkerberry or Teaberry. There used to be a gum that was Teaberry flavored and many people consider the flavor to be close to wintergreen. Wintergreen also contains a compound called methyl salicylate which is very close to the composition of aspirin. It can be dried and used as a tea to alleviate aches and pains. Both the berries and leaves contain the compounds. Before you head into the forest and start munching WInterberry leaves, please be aware that the compound can cause allergic reactions and the oils are very concentrated in the plant so it is best to use sparingly.
Winterberry is a food source for deer, grouse, turkeys, and small woodland mammals. The plant isn't a large part of any animal's diet but the berries are enjoyed by many forest animals.