Herbs & Plants

Mitchella repens

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Botanical Name :Mitchella repens
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Mitchella
Species: M. repens
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Common Name :Mitchella repens , Partridge Berry, or Squaw Vine.  The species is dispersed throughout eastern North America, from south Eastern Canada south to Florida and Texas, and to Guatemala. It is found growing in dry or moist woods, along stream banks and on sandy slopes.

Habitat :Mitchella repens is occurring in North America and Japan, and belonging to the madder family (Rubiaceae).

Partridge Berry is an evergreen plant growing as a non-climbing vine, no taller than 6 cm tall with creeping stems 15 to 30 cm long. The evergreen, dark green, shiny leaves are ovate to cordate in shape. The leaves have a pale yellow midrib. The petioles are short, and the leaves are paired oppositely on the stems. Adventitious roots may grow at the nodes; and rooting stems may branch and root repeatedly, producing loose spreading mats.
The small, trumpet-shaped, axillary flowers are produced in pairs, and each flower pair arises from one common calyx which is covered with fine hairs. Each flower has four white petals, one pistil, and four stamens. Partridge Berry is a distylous taxa. The plants have either flowers with long pistils and short stamens (long-styled flowers, called the pin), or have short pistils and long stamens (short-styled flowers, called the thrum). The two style morphs are genetically determined, so the pollen from one morph does not fertilize the other morph, resulting in a form of heteromorphic self-incompatibility.

Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens)
Foliage, inflorescence, and unopened blossom
BerriesThe ovaries of the twin flowers fuse, so that there were two flowers for each berry. The two bright red spots on each berry are vestiges of this process. The fruit ripens between July and October, and may persist through the winter. The fruit is a drupe containing up to eight seeds. The fruits are never abundant. They may be part of the diets of several birds, such as Ruffed Grouse, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Northern Bobwhite, and Wild turkey. They are also consumed by foxes, White-footed mice, and skunks. The foliage is occasionally consumed by White-tailed deer.

The common reproduction is vegetative, with plants forming spreading colonies.

Cultivation and uses:
Mitchella repens is cultivated for its ornamental red berries and shiny, bright green foliage. It is grown as a creeping ground cover in shady locations. It is rarely propagated for garden use by way of seeds but cuttings are easy.The plants have been widely collected for Christmas decorations, and over collecting has impacted some local populations negatively. American Indian woman made a tea from the leaves and berries that was consumed during childbirth. The plants are sometimes grown in terrariums. The scarlet berries are edible but rather tasteless, with a faint flavour of wintergreen, resembling cranberries (to which they are not closely related).

Medicinal Uses:
The Indians ate the berries and dined on a medicinal jelly when experiencing fever.  It has been used to promote easy labor and prevent miscarriage.  It is a nourishing and safe remedy for women from puberty through menopause, including during pregnancy and lactation, especially where there is a history of difficult pregnancy or a weak reproductive system.  In cases of chronic weakness or disease, it needs to be taken for 4-8 weeks before results may be seen.  It is a specific treatment for uterine hemorrhage and therefore it is indicated in menopausal flooding as well as heavy uterine blood loss of any kind after diagnosis by a health-care provider.  Partridge berry may also relieve painful periods.  The dose is limited to one cup of tea of the single herb per day or up to one-fourth part of a formula by weight, three standard cups per day.  Partridge berry herb does apparently contradictory things: it relaxes pregnant women while it tones up the uterine and pelvic muscles and it soothes nervous “jumpiness.” Its actions are astringent (for weak uterine tone, but it is not drying or constipating), diuretic, emmenagogue and parturient taken during the few weeks before birth.  A well-known early 20th century preparation, called Mother’s Cordial, combined it with cram bark, unicorn root, sassafras oil, brandy, and sugar.  It appeared in the US National Formulary from 1926 to 1947 for treating uterine problems.  It improves digestion and calms the nervous system.  At times it has been substituted for pipsissewa as a treatment for urinary tract infections.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.