A Hardy Holly

When I stumble into a mature Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata; female plant) on a gray winter day, the reason for its popularity is obvious, even at a distance. The tightly grouped clusters of persistent red berries (drupes) brighten an otherwise dull, monochromatic landscape. The fruit of this native shrub, valued by Native Americans for medicinal purposes and eaten by many species of birds, also appears in cultivated landscapes throughout Eastern North America.

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Winterberry Holly in a snowstorm 1/12/15

Photo by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

 

The First Snow

The first significant snowfall of the season is always exciting. It’s usually just a few inches, and gone within a few days, but it offers a fresh, new landscape that is rich in subject matter. Unlike mid-winter when landscapes tend to be monochromatic and lack visual variety, a snow-covered landscape in the fall provides a backdrop for colorful plants and all sorts of wildlife activity.

Although I’m currently preoccupied with following the White-tail rut, I couldn’t resist taking my camera for a walk on November 8, in the midst of our first snowfall of the season.

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Wild Apple tree with persistent fruit

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White-tailed Deer: A mature doe and her two fawns (1 of 2 images)

 

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I featured Winterberry (Ilex verticillata ) in a recent post, but something was missing – winter!

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Winterberry Holly

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Winterberry Holly

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

Wetland Shrubs – Winterberry

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.

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Winterberry fruit in winter

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.

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One of several large clumps of Winterberry in a poorly drained, wetland habitat.

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!

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Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.