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Partridgeberry is a delicate, evergreen, woody perennial that runs along the ground and trails over rocks to form a green carpet dotted with fragrant, white flowers and scarlet berries. The low-growing, non-climbing vine is found throughout eastern North America. It flourishes in dry or moist wooded areas, spilling over slopes, logs, and rocks. Repens is derived from the Latin word for “creeping,” an apt description for the way the slow-growing stems spread along the ground, sending out roots from leaf nodes to anchor themselves into the soil. It grows in a range of well-drained soils and partial to full shade; too much sun will stress the plant. The beautiful foliage retains its deep green luster throughout winter, contrasting with oval-shaped, fleshy fruits that attract birds (thus the common name) and small mammals. In spring, pairs of tubular flowers grow in two forms—in one, the pistil is short and the stamens are long; in the other, the pistil is long and the stamens are short. This characteristic prevents each flower from fertilizing itself. Once both flowers are pollinated by insects, they produce a single red berry that is eaten primarily by birds.

 

The unusual flowers give rise to several common names, such as twinflower, two-eyed berry, and oneberry. The plant has also been called deerberry, running fox, and squawberry, though the derogatory term “squaw” is no longer used. M. repens was an important medicinal plant for Native Americans, and the Mohawk term for the vine is “noon kie oo nah.” The organization United Plant Savers lists M. repens as one of our native medicinal herbs that is potentially threatened in the wild. It’s the only Mitchella found in North America, and the few others in its genus are found in Asia. The genus name was given to the plant by Linnaeus to honor John Mitchell, a friend who developed a method of treating yellow fever.

 

Because it's not an aggressive grower, patridgeberry is best used in smaller areas, such as bare spots in shady sites. It’s a great alternative to  Vinca and other non-native groundcover plantsOnce it’s well established, it will tolerate some drought. It transplants well and can be propagated by dividing the roots. Trim it occasionally to keep it neat, and remove tree leaves if they're covering it.

 

Native habitats include deciduous and coniferous forests, rotten logs, stream banks, bottomlands, and wet habitats. Use as a groundcover in woodland and shade gardens, under trees, in partly shady border fronts and rock gardens, and around small ponds.

 

Plant Characteristics:

Grows 1-3” tall and 12-16” long.

 

Prefers part to full shade.

 

Thrives in moist or occasionally dry, rich, acidic, well-drained soils but adapts to other soils as long as they are well drained.

 

From late spring to early summer, 1/2”, trumpet-shaped flowers occur in pairs, with each pair arising from one common calyx.  Each flower flares open with 4 petals covered in a dense layer of white hairs. Two-lobed, red berries containing 8 seeds ripen between July and October. They are 1/4” long and 3/8” across with tiny dimples and star-shaped marks that are a result of the fusion of the paired flowers’ ovaries.

 

Glossy, green leaves are broadly ovate or cordate with smooth margins and a light yellow midvein and are arranged in pairs along delicate, slightly woody, pale-green-to-brown stems.

 

Wildlife Value:

Fruits are eaten by songbirds, ruffed grouses, wild turkeys, quails, foxes, skunks, and small mammals.

 

Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:

Native Americans used the plant in numerous ways. Women drank a tea brewed from the leaves to aid in childbirth, and berries were eaten to prevent severe labor pains. The berries were an excellent tonic for female reproduction. The plant was used to treat sore muscles, rheumatism, swellings, back pains, convulsions, fevers, painful urination, and vomiting. The Cherokee used a decoction made with milk to treat dysentery. A poultice was used to treat rashes in babies, and the roots and vines were given to newborns to treat swollen abdomens and stomachaches. The Ojibwa smoked the leaves as a blood purifier during ceremonies.

 

The berries are edible, though a bit bland, with a slight taste of wintergreen.

Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens

$4.00Price
Excluding Sales Tax
  • This plant will be offered as bare root in spring and later in the season as a potted plant

  • For summer planting, water deeply 1-2 times weekly.

    Don't plant past late September or plants will heave out with freezing and thawing cycles.

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