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Winterberry Ilex verticillata
(Aquifoliaceae)

Winterberry is a deciduous shrub growing to 6-15 feet tall and often as wide. It develops a rounded habit through suckering, eventually growing into a sizeable colony of upright stems. The stems tend to be dark brown and often develop a pleasing gray sheen. The 3 inch long, elliptic, toothed, and pointed leaves vary from light to dark green, taking a yellow hue in autumn. Insignificant flowers appear in May June and are followed by bright red berries in late summer. The berries, for which the common name was derived, remain after leaf fall and persist into the winter months to provide food for wildlife. Winterberry prefers evenly moist, acid soils in full sun to partial shade.

Winterberry is best planted as a mass in naturalistic gardens or as a loose hedge in more formal gardens. The plants are dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers appear on separate plants. As a general rule, one male plant should accompany each grouping of females in order to insure fruit set. Many cultivars and hybrids exist in the nursery trade. Variations in berry color and size, form, and height are numerous. Choose a form you like and plant a mass where it will be highlighted by a field of snow or standing water.

Winterberry occurs in swamps and wet woods throughout the eastern United States and southeastern Canada.


Native Plant Spotlight

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Winterberry

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