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Gaultheria depressa, commonly known as the mountain snow berry or alpine wax berry, is a small ground hugging shrub of the heath family Ericaceae native to rocky alpine areas of Tasmania, Australia,[1] and New Zealand.

Mountain snow berry
Gaultheria depressa Hobart Gardens.JPG
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Ericales
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Gaultheria
Species: G. depressa
Binomial name
Gaultheria depressa

Joseph Dalton Hooker described Gaultheria depressa in 1847 from a collection by Ronald Campbell Gunn at Ben Lomond in Tasmania.[2] The species name is Latin depressa "flat". Two subspecies are recognised, depressa from Tasmania and New Zealand, and novae-zealandiae from New Zealand. Analysis of DNA shows the next closest relative to Gaultheria depressa is the New Zealand species Gaultheria antipoda, which suggests the Australian populations of G. depressa dispersed to Australia from New Zealand. The next closest relative to the two species is the New Zealand species Gaultheria oppositifolia.[3]

In Australia, Gaultheria depressa is a prostrate shrub 10 to 20 cm (4 to 8 in) high and 50 to 150 cm (19.5 to 59 in) across. It grows larger in New Zealand. The small leaves are oval to round and measure 0.5 to 1 cm (0.20 to 0.39 in) in length, and have serrate margins. The small white tubular flowers appear from September to January and are followed by white or red fruit which are around 1 cm in diameter.[4]

In New Zealand, the prostrate habit and dependent fruit shielded by foliage from above suggest it is suited for dispersal by lizards. Furthermore, the ground weta species (Zealandosandrus maculifrons) has been recorded eating the fruit.[5]

It is suitable for rockeries in gardens in temperate climates, and has been available commercially in England. It prefers a well drained acidic soil in part shade.[4] The berries are edible.

Early settlers in the southern district of New Zealand Otago used to make snowberry pies out of the Gaultheria depressa fruit.[6]


  1. ^ "Gaultheria depressa". Key to Tasmanian vascular plants. University of Tasmania. Retrieved 11 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Gaultheria depressa Hook.f." Australian Plant Name Index (APNI), IBIS database. Centre for Plant Biodiversity Research, Australian Government. 
  3. ^ Bush, Catherine M.; Wagstaff, Steven J.; Fritsch, Peter W.; Kron, Kathleen A. (2009). "The phylogeny, biogeography and morphological evolution ofGaultheria (Ericaceae) from Australia and New Zealand". Australian Systematic Botany. 22 (4): 229–42. doi:10.1071/SB08049. 
  4. ^ a b Elliot, Rodger W.; Jones, David L.; Blake, Trevor (1992). Encyclopaedia of Australian Plants Suitable for Cultivation: Vol. 4: Eu-Go. Port Melbourne: Lothian Press. p. 349. ISBN 0-85091-213-X. 
  5. ^ Burns, K.C. (2006). "Weta and the evolution of fleshy fruits in New Zealand" (PDF). New Zealand Journal of Ecology. 30 (6): 405–06. 
  6. ^ Metcalf, Lawrie (2006). Alpine Plants of New Zealand. New Zealand: newhollandpublishers. p. 59. ISBN 978-1-86966-128-1.