One of my favorite shrubs to use for winter decorating is the Winterberry (Ilex verticillata). Its brilliant red berries really brighten up the evergreen boughs that bring such a wonderful pine-scented fragrance to the air.
The berries are eaten by nearly 50 bird and waterfowl species and also by a variety of small mammals. Although not a favorite browse, some larger herbivores like whitetail deer and smaller ones like cottonrail rabbits will use this plant.
We find Winterberry throughout our hunting property in both really wet and not so wet soil conditions. Our soil is quite acidic because of all the evergreen tree species, but we also have areas of upland which tend to have a more average soil. Winterberry is quite tolerant of many soil and light situations, but it likes to have wet roots.
An interesting fact is that the female plant requires fertilization from a male plant in order to produce the pretty red berries. So buying just one true native plant for your yard won’t produce the beautiful red berries in the fall unless there is a male plant somewhere in your neighborhood.
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