Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a fairly dense, upright shrub with a spreading crown. Best known for its natural occurrence in wetland habitats in eastern U.S. and southeastern Canada, it also performs very well as a landscape ornamental. This is one of my favorite shrubs, mostly because the bright red-orange fruit persists well into the winter. Like Cardinals, the fruit contrasts beautifully with snow and the vivid green of the conifers with which it is often associated. In addition to its aesthetic value, the fruit is eaten by nearly 50 species of birds, and some small mammals too.
Winterberry produced a heavy crop of bright red-orange fruit this year and with most of the foliage of deciduous plants gone, it is visible from a considerable distance.
Winterberry, a deciduous holly, is dioecious, i.e. plants are either male or female. At least one male must be in close proximity to females in order for successful pollination and fruit production to occur. For the most part, male plants go unnoticed in the landscape and can be somewhat difficult to identify in winter.
Apparently, this was a good year for pollination because most of the wild plants (females of course) are loaded with fruit!
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.