Mitchella is a genus of flowering, evergreen perennials in the Rubiaceae family that contains only two species: Mitchella repens, native to the eastern and central US, and Mitchella undulata, native to Japan and South Korea.
More Information About Mitchella
The genus Mitchella was named by renowned enlightenment botanist Carle Linnaeus after his good friend and fellow physician and botanist John Mitchell. Mitchella repens is the most common species in the US and can be found in forests from Guatemala to Canada. The Latin name ‘repens’ means crawling and refers to the creeping vine-like habit.
Mitchella in the Garden
In the garden, mitchella prefers shade or dappled sunlight but can tolerate some morning sun. It prefers moist but well-drained soil. Once established, it is virtually maintenance free and its low growing, dense habit makes it an ideal evergreen groundcover for shady, woodland locations. The plants are often collected for Christmas decorations. The berries are edible but mostly tasteless to humans but are a popular treat for many species of birds hence the common name partridge berry.
Mitchella repens has also been used in traditional medicine to treat a variety of ailments including insomnia, fever, and back pain. Tea made from the leaves has also been used by indigenous people in North America as a childbirth aid.
The unrelated plant Vaccinum vitis-idaea is also referred to as partridgeberry or Newfoundland partridgeberry but is in an entirely different genus.