PARTRIDGEBERRY

Except for when the ground is covered with snow, partridgeberry (Michella repens) is a conspicuous element of the forest floor. Its little leaves, each about the size of a dime, remain green all year. Other species such as trailing arbutus and wintergreen occupy the same mesic or wet habitat, but leaves of partridgeberry are easily recognized by the white line that runs down the middle of each glossy leaf.

Partridgeberry flowers now, late in spring/early in summer. As I write this flowers are abundant in some forested sites in Deering. The plants form a carpet within which there are many little white flowers. The display is really very charming.

Flowers of partridgberry are paired, joined at the base and opening widely to 4 petals above a cylindrical corolla. The buds are pale pink but the open flowers are mostly white with only a little pink remaining in the corolla. The insides of the petals bear numerous very fine hairs. The flowers are pollinated by bumblebees. The bases of the flowers fuse. Nominally each flower produces 4 seeds, but because the ovaries are fused, each fruit is vaguely 2-lobed and contains 8 seeds.  Pollen from different plants is required for fertilization

Partridgeberry is widespread throughout eastern USA and  Canada as far west as the Mississippi River and  even into Texas.  It mostly occurs on dry-ish sites but can also be found in wet sites. The red berries are edible but really don’t have any flavor. Ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, skunks, and white-footed mice consume partridge berries, but even with that partridgeberries can be found almost all year round.

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