Monday, July 4, 2011

Partridge Berry

Janet writes: Partridge berry, Mitchella repens, has finished blooming here in Mass, but was in full bloom in Maine this past weekend.  As you can see in the photo, the tiny white flowers of this trailing ground cover come in pairs.  The twin flowers fuse, giving rise to only one berry, and the two spots that can be seen on each berry (see the single red berry in this photo) are vestiges of this process.

The berries are food for a variety of birds and mammals.  Humans can eat them, but describe them as bland and seedy.  I have yet to sample them.  It is said that native Americans used the leaves to treat pain during childbirth, hence one of its common names: squaw vine.

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