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Dec 2014: Winterberry

 

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is one of seven Tennessee species of native hollies, along with American Holly (Ilex opaca) and Possumhaw (Ilex decidua).  Its leaves are deciduous, leaving its beautiful red berries to remain on the plant through the winter.  The berries' fat content is lower than it is in most other native berries and birds tend to wait until late in the season to eat them.  This means we can enjoy the striking color of this shrub while providing food for birds and other wildlife when they really need it.  Winterberry is a plant of floodplains and bottomlands; left to its own devices it tends to sucker and spread, providing great erosion control.  It can be pruned into a nice shrub in a landscape and works very well in rain gardens, though it can grow on drier sites.  Like most hollies, Winterberry is dioecious, with male and female plants.  Both must be present in order to produce berries.

The inconspicuous flowers attract many kinds of pollinators, and this plant is the larval host for tthe Henry's Elfin Butterfly.  The shrub also provides important cover and nesting habitat.

For more information on Winterberry, follow this link.

For a list of native hollies of the eastern United States, click here.

 

Posted by Cathy Justis at 11:27 AM