You’d never guess it, though these two flowers will seemingly produce one fruit. This is partridge berry (Mitchella repens), a member of the coffee family and a species whose evergreen leaves form dense mats on forest floors throughout Pennsylvania. Both flowers must be pollinated in order for fruits to emerge. After successful fertilization, the two flowers’ ovaries fuse and mature into a single red berry. Look closely at a single fruit sometime this autumn and you’ll see two dimples on each one; these are spots where the petals were attached.
Partridge berry is named after the ruffed grouse, a relative of the European partridge and an animal who enjoys this fruit almost as much as I do. “Mitchella” is named after Dr. John Mitchell, a plant collector who lived in Virginia and who was a friend of Carl Linnaeus (yes… the Carl Linnaeus). “Repens” means “creeping,” describing the growth habit of the plant.
Partridge berry is edible, and while the fruits don’t have much of a taste, I still enjoy snacking on them when walking the trails (it’s all about the wild plant genetics). Medicinally, partridge berry has been used successfully as a parturient to aid in childbirth.
This particular wildflower is a bit difficult to witness in bloom, though the plant itself is easy to find. Check it out on your next jaunt through the forest! I can only imagine you’ll be glad you did.