Hello, fellow lovers of all things green,
After the first snow, followed by heavy rains, I roamed the property looking for beauty amongst the dreary skies, muddy lawn, and lack of frosting. I came upon festive Partridge Berry, a charming native ground cover I didn’t know we had.
Along Jacksonburg Creek, where I am blessed to live, there’s a welcome swath of green – a carpet of moss I always admire. Sadly, we have downed trees on each side of the brook that fell during last winter’s trifecta. Some have moved “downriver” in the heavy rains; the creek has swollen to twenty-five feet wide. Thankfully, Mother Nature froze the ground before bringing on the most recent snow, so more beautiful trees didn’t topple.
I noticed a charming little red berry as I crouched down to appreciate the many kinds of moss that had gathered to create a magnificent tapestry. Attached to it are dainty dark green leaves with veins in pale yellow. I’ve seen this little beauty on hikes along the Appalachian Trail but never noticed it creeping around the moss.
Patridge Berry looks Festive.
Partridge Berry (Mitchella repens L.) is a native woody evergreen perennial that trails along forest floors and riverbanks in shady areas. It roots from the nodes (where branches and leaves sprout from the stems) and can form thick colonies, making a delightful ground cover.
It is vine-like, though it meanders, not climbs, and does not propagate easily from seed, instead, by cuttings. But please don’t pilfer unless you have permission. Native plant nurseries have them for sale. It looks festive, with deep green leaves and scarlet berries, which is why Partridge Berry is often used in holiday pots and terrariums. Speaking of terrariums, gathering treasures from the woods and building miniature gardens as a child began my interest in nature and gardens.
As I took photos of this little cutie and the moss surrounding her, I felt like a Troll lurking amongst a furry carpet in a miniature forest. It made me feel small in comparison to the world around me. Yet big amongst the moss.
Do you remember Troll dolls as a kid?
I called Mom a Troll when things didn’t go my way – it became a standing joke as I grew up. She thought Trolls were ugly. I always thought they were cute, which is likely why the Christmas Troll gift to Mom came back to me (smile).
Troll dolls originated in Denmark in the 1950s. Thomas Dam started the Danish company after his wife encouraged him to sell the wooden dolls he carved for his children. He called them Good Luck Trolls, and they quickly became popular. Thomas sold the wood dolls door-to-door, but by 1956, the demand became too high so he opened a factory and switched to a rubber body stuffed with wood shavings to keep up with demand. (This bit of history is from TheTrollHole.com, the website for The Troll Hole Museum in Alliance, Ohio.)
Partridge Berries are Edible
Native American women made the leaves and berries of Partridge Berry into tea and drank it during childbirth. The little berries are edible, too. They say they taste like sweetish-tart cucumbers, but I didn’t nibble. Let’s leave them for the wildlife and admire them amongst the moss and the trees.
Enjoy more to the story in the “soothing to tune into” Garden Dilemmas Podcast (@ 10 minutes):
The Patridge berry is a staple in terrariums, reminding me of a “terrarium building banquet” I attended. Hosted by A&J Messina Greenhouses in Blairstown, NJ, it served as a mini-gardening warmup. Here’s a link to the story with terrarium how-tos you’ll enjoy: Terrariums – a Mini Gardening Warmup