Definitions

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens

Mitchella repens , or Partridge Berry, or Squaw Vine,is the best known plant in the genus Mitchella. It is a herbaceous woody shrub, occurring in North America and Japan, and belonging to the madder family (Rubiaceae).

This evergreen plant is a creeping, but not climbing, vine, 15-30 cm long. The evergeen dark-green leaves are opposite, ovate to cordate, with a pale yellow midrib. The petioles are short. Roots may grow at the internodes, forming loose mats. It is part of the undergrowh vegetation in many forests.

It has dimorphous, twin white tubular insect-pollinated flowers (grown from one calyx) with four petals, covered with fine hairs. They grow axillary at the end of a branchlet. Each flower has one pistil and four stamens. While in one twin flower this pistil is short,in the other it is long. With a short pistil come long stamens, or vice versa. This dimorphy prevents self-fertilization by one flower.

The ovaries of the twin flowers fuse, so that there are two flowers for every berry. The two bright red spots on each berry reveal this process. The scarlet berries are edible but very bitter, resembling cranberries. Each berry contains eight seeds. The fruit ripens between July and October. These berries are part of the diets of several birds, such as Ruffed Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Northern Bobwhite, and Prairie Chicken. The Red Fox, raccoons and White-tailed Deer seem to like it as well.

The most common method of reproduction is vegetative, through division of the roots. Information of propagation by seed is scant.

Common names for Mitchella repens include partridge berry (or partridgeberry), squaw berry (or squaw berry), two-eyed berry, running fox, and Noon kie oo nah yeah (in the Mohawk language).

The species is dispersed throughout eastern North America.

References

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