Mitchella repens (commonly partridge berry or squaw vine) is the best known plant in the genus Mitchella. It is a creeping prostrate herbaceous woody shrub occurring in North America belonging to the madder family (Rubiaceae).

Partridge berry
Leaves and berry
Flowers and berry
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Mitchella
M. repens
Binomial name
Mitchella repens

Names edit

Mitchella repens is one of the many species first described by Carl Linnaeus. Its species name is the Latin adjective repens, which means "creeping". Common names for Mitchella repens include partridge berry,[1][2][3][4][a] squaw vine,[5][b] twin berry,[6][7][c] two-eyed berry,[8] running box,[7] checker berry[7][d] and tea berry[7][e] in English.

In aboriginal languages, it is known as binemiin, binemin and binewimin in Ojibwe,[8] noon-yeah-ki'e oo-nah'yea in Onondaga[9] and fiːtó imilpá in Koasati (Coushatta).[7]

Description edit

The partridge berry is an evergreen plant growing as a non-climbing vine, no taller than 6 cm tall with creeping stems 15 to 30 cm long. The evergreen, dark green, shiny leaves are ovate to cordate in shape. The leaves have a pale yellow midrib. The petioles are short, and the leaves are paired oppositely on the stems. Adventitious roots may grow at the nodes;[6] and rooting stems may branch and root repeatedly, producing loose spreading mats.

The small, trumpet-shaped, axillary flowers are produced in pairs, and each flower pair arises from one common calyx which is covered with fine hairs. Each flower has four white petals, one pistil, and four stamens. Partridge berry is a distylous taxon. The plants have flowers with either long pistils and short stamens (long-styled flowers, called pins) or short pistils and long stamens (short-styled flowers, called thrums).[10] The two style morphs are genetically determined, so the pollen from one morph does not fertilize the other morph, resulting in a form of heteromorphic self-incompatibility.[11]

Partridge berry (Mitchella repens)
Foliage, inflorescence, and unopened blossom

The ovaries of the twin flowers fuse together, so that there are two flowers for each berry. The two bright red spots on each berry are vestiges of this process. The fruit ripens between July and October, and may persist through the winter. The fruit is a drupe containing up to eight seeds. The fruits are never abundant. They may be part of the diets of several birds, such as ruffed grouse, sharp-tailed grouse, northern bobwhite, and wild turkey. They are also consumed by foxes, white-footed mice, and skunks.[12][13] The foliage is occasionally consumed by white-tailed deer.[14]

The common reproduction is vegetative, with plants forming spreading colonies.[15]

Distribution and habitat edit

The species is dispersed throughout eastern North America, from south Eastern Canada south to Florida and Texas, and to Guatemala. It is found growing in dry or moist woods, along stream banks and on sandy slopes.

Cultivation and uses edit

Mitchella repens is cultivated for its ornamental red berries and shiny, bright green foliage.[15] It is grown as a creeping ground cover in shady locations. It is rarely propagated for garden use by way of seeds but cuttings are easy.[16] The plants have been widely collected for Christmas decorations, and over collecting has impacted some local populations negatively.[15] The plants are sometimes grown in terrariums.[17]

The scarlet berries are edible[18] but rather tasteless, with a faint flavour of wintergreen, resembling cranberries (to which they are not closely related). First Nations women[which?] made a tisane from the leaves and berries that was consumed during childbirth;[15] the Menominees used the leaves for a drink to cure insomnia.[7]

Traditionally, the plant had numerous medicinal uses including as a diuretic (by the Cherokee and Iroquois), a diaphoretic (Cherokee), for women's problems or reproductive issues (Cherokee, Delaware, Iroquois), and as an analgesic or to reduce fever or swelling (Abenaki, Iroquois, Montagnais).[7]

Notes edit

  1. ^ Or partridgeberry. This name sometimes refers to Vaccinium vitis-idaea (the lingonberry), but wild partridgeberry is more common for that species.
  2. ^ Or squaw berry.
  3. ^ Or twinberry.
  4. ^ This name usually refers to Gaultheria procumbens (the American wintergreen).
  5. ^ This name usually refers to Gaultheria procumbens (the American wintergreen).

References edit

  1. ^ Peterson, Roger Tory, and McKenny, Margaret (1996). A Field Guide to Wildflowers of Northeastern and North-central North America. ISBN 978-0-395-91172-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ MacKenzie, David, S (2002). Perennial Ground Covers. ISBN 978-0-88192-557-9.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. ^ Hutchens, Alma R (1969). Indian Herbalogy of North America. ISBN 978-0-87773-639-4.
  4. ^ Hall, Joan Houston (2002). Dictionary of American Regional English. Harvard University Press. p. 47. ISBN 978-0-674-00884-7. Retrieved 2007-11-16.
  5. ^ Susan Gregg. The Complete Illustrated Encyclopedia of Magical Plants, Revised: A Practical Guide to Creating Healing, Protection, and Prosperity Using Plants, Herbs, and Flowers. Fair Winds Press, 2013. p. 65. ISBN 9781592335831
  6. ^ a b Nathaniel Lord Britton; Addison Brown (1913). An illustrated flora of the northern United States, Canada and the British possessions: from Newfoundland to the parallel of the southern boundary of Virginia, and from the Atlantic Ocean westward to the 102d meridian. Vol. 3. C. Scribner's sons. pp. 255. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Daniel F. Austin. Florida Ethnobotany. CRC Press, 2004. pp. 441–442. ISBN 9780203491881
  8. ^ a b "Mitchella repens L." at the Northern Ontario Plant Database. Retrieved 30 June 2023.
  9. ^ W. M. Beauchamp. "Onondaga Plant Names." The Journal of American Folklore. 15:57 (April–June 1902). p. 99. doi:10.2307/533477
  10. ^ Reproductive Biology of Distylous Partridgeberry, Mitchella repens. David J. Hicks, Robert Wyatt and Thomas R. Meagher Vol. 72, No. 10 (Oct., 1985), pp. 1503-1514 Stable URL:
  11. ^ Fecundity in Distylous and Self-Incompatible Homostylous Plants of Mitchella repens (Rubiaceae) Fred R. Ganders Vol. 29, No. 1 (Mar., 1975), pp. 186-188 Published by: Society for the Study of Evolution Stable URL:
  12. ^ Alexander Campbell Martin; Herbert Spencer Zim; Arnold L. Nelson (1951). American wildlife & plants: a guide to wildlife food habits; the use of trees, shrubs, weeds, and herbs by birds and mammals of the United States. Courier Dover Publications. pp. 361–. ISBN 978-0-486-20793-3. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  13. ^ Marie Harrison (30 March 2006). Groundcovers for the South. Pineapple Press Inc. pp. 76–. ISBN 978-1-56164-347-9. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  14. ^ James Howard Miller; Karl V. Miller (May 2005). Forest plants of the Southeast and their wildlife uses. University of Georgia Press. pp. 280–. ISBN 978-0-8203-2748-8. Retrieved 5 September 2010.
  15. ^ a b c d Wolfram George Schmid (13 September 2002). An encyclopedia of shade perennials. Timber Press. pp. 243–. ISBN 978-0-88192-549-4. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  16. ^ William Cullina (18 March 2000). New England Wildflower Society guide to growing and propagating wildflowers of the United States and Canada. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 148–. ISBN 978-0-395-96609-9. Retrieved 4 September 2010.
  17. ^ "Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - the University of Texas at Austin".
  18. ^ Angier, Bradford (1974). Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants. Harrisburg, PA: Stackpole Books. p. 162. ISBN 0-8117-0616-8. OCLC 799792.