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And a partridge in a pear tree...
Forgive me for borrowing a line from that little ditty that some wily Jesuit priests penned in the 16th century, but I couldn't think of a more clever way to introduce you to Mitchella repens, aka "Partridge Berry". Yes, it's only the middle of November, not even Thanksgiving yet, but already my local Walmart has rolled out the Christmas decorations.
Mitchella repens has opposite, evergreen, glossy, oval to heart-shaped leaves, 1/2 inch across, with parallel veining in the midrib and carpets the ground with its 12" - 18" vines. The bright red berries are edible, but nowhere near as tasty as Gaultheria procumbens (Teaberry), and persist all winter unless the partridges, grouse, fox or other wildlife discover them.
Native to 35 states and 3 provinces of Canada east of the Mississippi - http://plants.usda.gov/java/nameSearch?keywordquery=mitchella+repens&mode=sciname this extremely useful groundcover is rarely seen in the trade. I fail to see why, as it's very easy to propagate by rooting cuttings or from seed. In fact, it forms adventitious roots as it gently winds its way around the garden. It could never, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered aggressive or invasive.
And guess what else! I just happened to have a pot at eye level and discovered that the pink to pure white, tubular flowers that occur in pairs from June to July are really very fragrant. Here's a closeup of the flowers -http://www.missouriplants.com/Whiteopp/Mitchella_repens_page.html and another at http://www.ct-botanical-society.org/galleries/mitchellarepe.html As I said, the flowers occur in pairs and after fertilization, the two flower ovaries fuse together, giving rise to a single red fruit. The two dimples on the fruit reveal its fused nature.
As strange as it may seem, the genus Mitchella is in the Rubiaceae (Madder) family, the same family as Coffee arabica. Yes, that's the same coffee we get at Starbucks!
Native American women often drank a tea made from the leaves of this plant as an aid in childbirth.
I use Mitchella repens as a native alternative to that nasty Vinca that I've been trying to rid myself of for over 30 years.
It seems to tolerate dry soils although in its natural habitats, it's usually found in rich, moist, acidic woods.
I can't say that Mitchella repens is "completely" deerproof, however, it does seem that Bambi is more fond of the berries than the foliage and frequently seems to beat the birds to the bounty, while not intentionally disturbing the plant.
Over the last few years, I've been building a good stock of this glorious groundcover to share with you, and if now isn't the correct time to plant in your area, you can still reserve them for a later ship date by specifying that in a space provided on our order form. Please circle the ship date in red crayon so I don't miss it.
What you'll receive are full 2" pots, each with 3-5 rooted vines growing in them.
The prices shown below include FREE SHIPPING on bareroot plants out of their 2" pots. If you would like to receive the plants undisturbed, in their pots, please add .95¢ per plant to cover the extra cost of shipping soil and pots.
4 for $ 25.00 delivered ($6.25 ea)
Larger quantities at even lower prices upon request.
Ordering couldn't be easier! Just fill out the order form at http://www.sunfarm.com/orderform.pdf
Copyright © Barry Glick 1996-2013. All Rights Reserved.
Barry Glick, Sunshine Farm and Gardens
696 Glicks Rd, Renick, WV 24966, USA
Phone: (304) 497-2208
Last modified November 24, 2009