MADDER FAMILY - Rubiaceae: Partridge Vine, Twin-berry; Mitchella Vine; Squaw-berry

Mitchella repens

Flowers--Waxy, white (pink in bud), fragrant, growing in pairs at ends of the branches. Calyx usually 4-lobed; corolla funnel form, about 1/2 in. long, the 4 spreading lobes bearded within; 4 stamens inserted on corolla throat; 1 style with 4 stigmas; the ovaries of the twin flowers united (The style is long when the stamens are short, or vice versa.) Stem: Slender, trailing, rooting at joints, 6 to 12 in. long, with numerous erect branches. Leaves: Opposite, entire, short petioled, oval or rounded, evergreen, dark, sometimes white veined. Fruit: A small, red, edible, double berry-like drupe.

Preferred Habitat--Woods; usually, but not always, dry ones.

Flowering Season--April-June. Sometimes again in autumn.

Distribution--Nova Scotia to the Gulf states, westward to Minnesota and Texas.

A carpet of these dark, shining, little evergreen leaves, spread at the foot of forest trees, whether sprinkled over in June with pairs of waxy, cream-white, pink-tipped, velvety, lilac-scented flowers that suggest attenuated arbutus blossoms, or with coral-red "berries" in autumn and winter, is surely one of the loveliest sights in the woods. Transplanted to the home garden in closely packed, generous clumps, with plenty of leaf mould, or, better still, chopped sphagnum, about them, they soon spread into thick mats in the rockery, the hardy fernery, or about the roots of rhododendrons and the taller shrubs that permit some sunlight to reach them. No woodland creeper rewards our care with greater luxuriance of growth. Growing near our homes, the Partridge Vine offers an excellent opportunity for study.

What endless confusion arises through giving the same popular folk-names to different species! The Bob White, which is called quail in New England or wherever the ruffed grouse is known as partridge, is called partridge in the Middle and Southern states, where the ruffed grouse is known as pheasant. But as both these distributing agents, like most winter rovers, whether bird or beast, are inordinately fond of this tasteless partridge berry, as well as of the spicy fruit of quite another species, the aromatic wintergreen, which shares with it a number of common names, every one may associate whatever bird and berry best suit him. The delicious little twin-flower beloved of Linnaeus also comes in for a share of lost identity through confusion with the Partridge Vine.