|Berries of Winterberry Holly persist into well into winter|
when they provide late season food for birds.
Shortly after we moved into to our new place I identified a nice looking Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata) growing near the front door. It was mid fall and I didn't see any berries on the shrub. This meant that either it was a male plant or that there were no compatible males within 100 feet to provide pollen. The bright red berries of Winterberry are its main ornamental and ecological feature.
|Female flowers have a large central ovary surrounded by undeveloped |
stamen-like structures (lacking anthers). This plant was blooming in early June.
I had to wait until the following June to get a good look at the flowers. After careful examination it turned out that this plant was in fact a female. The solution was to find a suitable mate, that is one with a similar bloom time. I found a male cultivar at a nearby nursery called ‘Jim Dandy’. I sat him next to the established female for a few days while I located a nearby spot to plant him.
|Male flowers have well developed stamen and a very small ovary-like center. |
The male plant seemed to attract smaller sized insects.
By September I noticed a few of red berries on the plant. Success! I hope to see more berries next year as there will be a much longer time for pollination to occur.
|These red berries were formed by mid-August.|
One of my goals in designing a landscape is its habitat value. That is, what does the landscape gives back to wildlife in the form of food and shelter. So when I select plants I look for ones that produce flowers, fruits and/or seeds that wildlife can use. When selecting plants from a commercial nursery many of them are cultivars, which are genetically identical. This becomes an issue in the habitat garden if the plants are single sexed (dioecious). It is also a problem for plants that have both male and female flowers on the same plant (monoecious) or have perfect flowers (both male and female parts in the same flower) if the plants are not self fertile.
|Here are the flowers of a female persimmon. They have large ovary structures.|
Male flowers are narrow at the base.
|Female Box Elders are covered with seed pods (samara) in the fall. |
I noticed some squirrels eating them right off the tree.