Posts Tagged ‘Native Plants with Red Berries’

I was complaining recently to my fellow New Hampshire blogger Jomegat that I wanted to write about partridgeberry but couldn’t find any plants with berries on them.  Not long after that I decided to look at the plants in my own yard and sure enough, they had berries.  Here I’d been, tramping through the forests looking for something that was 10 steps from my back door. 

The reason I wanted to write about Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) is because of the curious way the berries form. If you look at the picture of the partridgeberry flowers above, you can see that they are fused at the base. Once pollinated, the ovaries of these flowers will join and form one berry with 8 seeds. Partridgeberry plants can always be easily identified by the two indentations on the berries that show where the flowers were. These can be seen in the photo below.  

 The plants are easy to identify even without flowers or berries because each roundish, dark green, shiny leaf has a white to off white/pale yellow rib running down the center of it.

Partridgeberry is one of the lowest growing evergreen plants on the forest floor, hardly growing more than 3 or 4 inches high. Plants have a vining habit but do not climb. Instead they form dense mats by spreading their trailing stems out to about a foot from the crown. Roots will often form at leaf nodes along the stems and start new plants. The 4 petaled, pinkish, fringed, fragrant, half inch long flowers appear in June and July. The berries remain on the plant for long periods unless eaten, and can often still be found the following spring. Other names for this plant include twinberry and two-eyed berry. The berries are edible, but fairly tasteless and eaten mostly by birds. If I was going to spend my time in the forest looking for small red berries to feed on I’d be looking for American wintergreen, (teaberry) which are delicious.

Partridgeberry is very easy to grow from stem cuttings, but it’s even easier to simply plant one bought from a nursery. They make an excellent groundcover in the garden and are a great source of winter interest. Partridgeberry is considered endangered in many areas however due to its habit of growing only in mature forests, so please do not collect plants from the wild. These plants like it cool and shaded; in my yard native plants grow under some large old hemlock trees and get only morning sun for about 2 hours. For the rest of the day they are in shade. They like a soil rich in humus like that found in most temperate forests. They also like to be on the moist side until they become established, but after that are nearly indestructible. 

Photo of Partridgeberry Flowers by Dave Otto of The Carrborro Citizen, Carrborro, NC

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