poetry and prose about place

Partridge-berry (Mitchella repens L.)

with 6 comments

One of the evergreen plants in the spring woodland is a little vine called Partridge-berry.  It trails, low to the ground, in shady, mossy woods, sometimes covering moist banks and hummocks with its shiny greenery.

Partridge-berry (Mitchella repens L.) is also known as Twinberry, Snakevine, Running Fox and Two-eyed Berry. The word repens is from the Latin for ‘creeping’.

The leaves of Partridge-berry are small, ovoid and opposite on a vine-like stem.  The leaves have a bright yellow midrib and veins, giving them a clear outline against the background of dry leaves.

The flowers are white or pinkish, and bell-shaped.  They occur in pairs – the two flowers are closely united at the base, sharing a single calyx.  As a result, the bright red berries are two-eyed, each showing two blossom scars.

This time of year, in July, Partridge-berry has flowered and set its berries.  The berries are dry and seedy but edible, with a slightly aromatic flavour.  They are a good nibble along the trail or can be used as emergency food.  The berries are ordinarily eaten by birds, such as the Ruffed Grouse.

1. never eat any plant if you are not absolutely certain of the identification;
2. never eat any plant if you have personal sensitivities, including allergies, to certain plants or their derivatives;
3. never eat any plant unless you have checked several sources to verify the edibility of the plant.



common names

( Mitchella repens L.)



Running Fox


a glimpse of red

between hairmoss and hummock

the fox slips into shrewd spaces

seeks the vacant way





a twist and a Twin-berry

trail woven and worn

mottled and mid-ribbed

Mitchella meanders

over feathermoss, under fern





Ruffed Grouse pokes and pecks

tucks a Two-eyed Berry in his crop

lurches on



©  Jane Tims  2012

6 Responses

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  1. I love this:

    “the fox slips into shrewd spaces
    seeks the vacant way”

    The plant looks so small and not easily spotted.



    July 24, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    • Hi. The flowers are sometimes even harder to spot. We only have one little section of vine on our property so I guard it well! Jane


      jane tims

      July 24, 2012 at 10:35 pm

  2. I love the lines “slips into shrewd places
    seeks the vacant way.” What a perfect capture of the way wild creatures move about. I really enjoyed this blog.


    Carol Steel

    July 20, 2012 at 4:43 pm

    • Hi Carol. Thanks for the specific comment on my poem… it helps to know what ‘works’. We have been watching a family of foxes not far from our cabin, and they certainly know how to elude observation! Jane


      jane tims

      July 20, 2012 at 5:01 pm

  3. I saw these last June….when the berries were being formed and they do, indeed have two “eyes”… It’s a lovely little plant too.



    July 18, 2012 at 10:10 pm

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