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The Beautiful Winterberry Bush

The Beautiful Winterberry Bush
7 votes, 4.86 avg. rating (94% score)

Winterberry is a species of the holly bush native to eastern North America and Canada. It’s abundant in the wild and is most frequently found in swampy woodland and wetland areas, though winterberry bushes may also be purchased at garden centers and nurseries. This medium-sized flowering bush blends seamlessly into woodland areas in the spring and summer, but by the time the leaves have fallen from the  surrounding trees in the late fall and early winter — when the winterberry bush leaves are brown and scarce — what remains on the shrub is the bright red, beautiful berries. The berries are pea sized and form in small clusters, punctuating the barren woods with a burst of vibrant color.

Winterberry Branches

Winterberry Branches

Typically a bold red, the berries  sometimes take on a reddish orange hue and are highly sought after by landscape decorators and homeowners in late November and December. They are incorporated in traditional outside holiday decorating in wreaths, urns, and swags. The abundant berries are harvested from the wild in New England for retail sale during the holiday season, although winterberries are stunning in their own right throughout the winter in contrast with evergreen trees and snow.

Not only are these berry bushes beautiful, they also attract and provide a significant food source to native birds and wildlife. Because of their high visibility in the winter landscape, they are very easy for birds to spot.

Often you will find several species of birds congregating on a winterberry bush for a feast. In fact, over forty known species of North American birds rely on these berries as a part of their food source. Mammals such as moose, deer and rabbits eat the stems and leaves in the winter as well. It is important to note that although this shrub species is an abundant source of food for wildlife, the berries are poisonous and extremely toxic to humans if consumed. It is best to keep the berries away from small children.

Because of their beauty and versatility, many gardeners are now choosing to incorporate winterberry bushes into their landscape design, particularly those who want to encourage wildlife into their backyards or those who are trying to fill in barren landscape with native plant and tree species to provide a natural border or buffer around the landscape.

Blue Sky and WInterberry

Photo/Art by Shelley Alley
Blue Sky and WInterberry Shrub

Tips for Gathering Wild Winterberry Branches

You will need sharp pruners or floral scissors. Take a large cardboard box with you to carry and transport the branches. Cut stems individually at an angle, leaving at least five inches of branch with berry nodules intact. Be sure to thoughtfully gather stems from all over the bush. Do not clear cut or strip a bush of the berry branches. Always ask permission before gathering berries that are not on your own property.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Shelley Wigglesworth

Author:

Shelley Wigglesworth

Biography:

Shelley Fleming-Wigglesworth is a certified Maine Master Gardener and award winning newspaper columnist from Kennebunk, Maine. She has been writing for the York County Coast Star for more than a decade as a freelance columnist and features writer. In 2010 she began writing her own gardening column “The Master Gardener’s Notebook” for Tourist News. She also teaches gardening classes at local schools and colleges
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2 Responses to The Beautiful Winterberry Bush

  1. annelise March 29, 2014 at 3:30 pm #

    Why did the berries on my winterberry bush drop of?

  2. Shelley Wigglesworth February 7, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks for the tips-photographing winter scenes wouldn’t be complete without some showcasing the beautiful Winterberry!

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