Scientific Name: Drimys winteri
Common Names: Winter's Bark
Plant Type: Small evergreen tree
Environment: Prefers full sun or light shade and needs good soil drainage and even moisture. May require pruning in late summer or fall to increase blooms and to maintain shape.
Bloom: Fragrant, white flowers throughout the winter months. Cinnamon colored aromatic bark and bright green aromatic leaves.
Uses: The pungent bark is powered and used as a pepper substitute in South America. Long history of medicinal use, particularly for stomach disorders and indigestion.
Drimys winteri in: Zellerbach Garden of Perennials and the Chilean Garden.
Winter's Bark can be found from Mexico to Tierra del Fuego. It is a small evergreen tree with fragrant white flowers in loose umbels. Its fame was in its aromatic bark that has cured sailors in past centuries from scurvy, a lack of ascorbic acid particularly affecting seaman on long voyages.
Sir Francis Drake on his journey around the world in 1577-80 had on board Captain John Winter, a doctor, who discovered from natives living in the Straits of Magellan that the bark of this local tree called "Canelo," in Chile, and brewed as a tea, would keep sailors from becoming ill. Vitamin C, vital to good health and unknown then, was present in the bark. Captain John Winter's ship was the only one of five to survive the trip around the Horn and return safely to England. Later, Captain Cook used the same bark tea (plus sauerkraut!) for his sailors on his voyages of discovery between 1770-75, enabling him to stay at sea for years, circumnavigating the globe, and exploring Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii and many other places.
Drimys winteri needs a sheltered frost-free place in the garden, and rewards the gardener with a long blooming period while filling the air with its fragrance.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor, Text by Docent Kathy McNeil, Profile by Fred Bové