(Photos and story by Diane De Luca)
As the leaves fall, and brown hues are dominant, the persistent green plants stand out. Even as the snow falls, the greens still peak through. At this time of year, the partridgeberry may be most noticeable as the deep green leaves contrast with the grays and browns of late fall and winter. Partridgeberry is one that reminds us of the season, and cheers as snow covers the ground.
Partridgeberry is a native perennial that is common throughout the forest understory of Eastern North America. Trailing stems with glossy, evergreen leaves spread into colonies that form a dense carpet on the forest floor.
Small, tubular white flowers grow in pairs along the stem. It attracts a variety of pollinators, but most notably bumblebees. Both flowers must be pollinated to obtain a single scarlet berry. Each berry retains two small depressions where the two flowers joined (see close-up, below). Hence the common name of “two-eyed berry”. The bright red fruit ripens by late summer, and can persist through the winter. The fruit may be consumed by ruffed grouse, turkey, fox, raccoon, skunk, white-footed mouse, and white-tailed deer.
Gardeners favor the Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) for winter gardens with its deep green leaves and brilliant red berries.