Partridge berry is a delightful ground cover that deserves to be grown more widely. It is an uncommon species that tends to like wet to mesic sandy soil. We’ve seen in growing in the high dunes, too, in areas exposed to cooling breezes. Like wintergreen, it is primarily grown for its excellent, evergreen foliage—though it does produce fragrant white flowers followed by red fruit. We find partridgeberry to be very easy to grow, but seldom offered for sale.
Habit: Partridge berry is a diminutive evergreen plant, about two inches high, that forms a creeping mat of slender, trailing stems. It produces fuzzy white flowers in early summer which give rise to pea-sized scarlet fruit (technically a berry-like drupe) by late autumn. The fruit will often persist through winter—if not eaten by birds or other wildlife.
Natural Habitat: Partridgeberry is shade-tolerant and seems to prefer well-drained soil. It grows on uplands and in wetlands in the southern Great Lakes region. Also, it grows on “tip-ups”—downed trees that accumulate organic matter along their horizontal trunks.
Etymology: The common name (Partridgeberry) is apparently a reference to the belief that the berries are relished by partridges. Partridgeberry is also known as Twinberry, Deer Berry, and Squaw Berry. The genus name (Mitchella) is for John Mitchell, a Virginian physician and botanist who corresponded with Linnaeus. The species name (repens) refers to the plant’s creeping habit. — Wild Adirondaks
Distribution: Partridgeberry is native throughout the eastern North America, from Newfoundland south to Florida, and from southern Ontario and Minnesota south to eastern Texas.