Plant of the Month: Winterberry

winterberryDuring the winter season, one of New England’s most easily recognizable native plants is Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Known for its bright red berries, this species colorful wintertime display is attractive to both wildlife and people. Winterberry is native to northeastern North America, and is a member of the holly family. If adequately pollinated by its male counterparts, the females will produce a crop of bright red berries that, if not eaten by wildlife, will persists throughout the winter months. Winterberry is a slow growing deciduous shrub that usually between 3-12’ tall. Its growth pattern and foliage are considered attractive, and provide year-round interest within a landscape. Winterberry is an adaptable plant that is tolerant of poorly drained, acidic soils. It prefers full exposure (6+ hours) of sun exposure, although it can tolerate part shade as well.

 

If unmanaged Winterberry will spread rhizomatically, as the plant sends out suckers to dense colonies. Although Winterberry is an attractive, well-adapted, native plant that provides significant amount of wildlife habitat and food, it is not often found within residential landscapes. Native Winterberry faces competition from numerous cultivars that have been bred to produce larger fruit and showier flowers.