Mitchella repens
Common Name: partridge berry
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Rubiaceae
Native Range: North America
Zone: 3 to 8
Height: 0.00 to 0.25 feet
Spread: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to July
Bloom Description: White
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Colorful
Fruit: Showy, Edible
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade, Dry Soil

Culture

Best grown in organically rich, medium moisture, well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Tolerates some drought, but best with consistent watering. Stems will root at the nodes to form colonies in optimum growing conditions. Plantings are sometimes difficult to establish.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Mitchella repens, commonly called partridge berry (also partridgeberry), is an herbaceous, woodland, mat-forming, evergreen perennial that is indigenous to eastern North America. In Missouri, it is native to sandy soils around bluff ledges, bogs and stream banks and in low moist woods in the southeastern part of the state (Steyermark). This is a prostrate plant that reaches only 2” tall, but will spread by trailing stems to 12” wide or more. Oval to round, glossy, dark green leaves (to 3/4” long) with whitish veins appear in pairs along the stems. Fragrant, four-lobed, funnel-shaped, white flowers (to 1/2” long) are lightly flushed with pink. Flowers bloom in spring in pairs mostly at the stem ends. Flowers are subsequently followed by round, bright red berries that typically ripen in late summer. A pair of flowers yields one berry, hence the additional common name of twin berry for this plant. Berries are edible, but rather tasteless. Berries often persist on the plants throughout winter.

Genus name honors John Mitchell (1711-1768), physician of Virginia, born in Lancaster county, who was a correspondent of Linnaeus.

Specific epithet means creeping.

Problems

No frequently occurring insect or disease problems.

Garden Uses

An evergreen ground cover that displays interesting foliage, flowers and fruit. Plant in woodland/shade gardens, under trees and in part shade areas of border fronts and rock gardens. Also effective around small ponds. Many gardeners believe this ground cover is not appropriately aggressive for large areas and is best grown in smaller sites.