Scientific name: Mitchella repens
Where: woods, shade
When: late summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: Vitamin C
Dangers: SEE BELOW!!
Partridge berry. Note the two "eyes".
Another closeup of the berry.
Partridge berry creepers. The berries are found at the end of the plant.
Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.
North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.
The lowly partridge berry plant forms a ground covering vine throughout the piney woods of Texas. This small, creeping vine-like plant creeps through the fallen leaves with a bright red berry the only really noticeable thing to differentiate it from the similar looking yaupon holly seedlings.
The bright red color of the berries suggest that the fruit itself would have an equally powerful taste but they are actually very bland. These fruit also have a grittiness to their flesh so the overall impression to me is much like very tiny pears. Not being a fan of pears, I'm not wild about partridge berries either. They are fairly nutritious, as most brightly-covered edible plants are and were used as food by native Americans. They can be eaten raw, dried, or made into jellies and jams, though for the later I recommend they be combined with other more strongly-flavored fruit.
Okay, if you've read this far you are ready to play a practical joke on your hiking buddies. Pick a few of the fruit and start eating them while exclaiming how sweet and delicious they are. Offer you friends some and when they look puzzled and say the berries aren't sweet you fake great concern and state that lack of flavor is a sign the person will have a bad allergic reaction to them! If you have a smart phone along open it to this page, scroll down to here and show them the follow warning.
WARNING!!! LACK OF FLAVOR/BLAND TASTE INDICATES THE PERSON IS ALLERGIC. SEEK MEDICAL HELP IMMEDIATELY!! DIRECTIONS FOR TREATMENT FOUND ABOVE!!
Buy my book! Idiots Guide Foraging covers 70 of North America's tastiest and easy to find wild edibles shown with the same big pictures as here on the Foraging Texas website.