Fall in Love with Berry Worthy Plants
Pollinators do the ground work here and all their buzzing and fluttering from bloom to bloom has paid off. Plants now adorn the seeds and fruits of their labor. Gardeners and landscape designers often choose perennial plants for their foliage, bloom color, fragrance or shape. Another consideration is the value perennials present to wildlife. Berries add pops of color and seed pods provide textural interest throughout the landscape, while providing food that will be consumed by birds and other mammals during the fall and winter months.
|Mockingbird eating fruit from American Beautyberry shrub|
The clusters of bright purple fruit on American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is a stunning accent in sunny areas. This shrub supports at least 10 species of birds, including cardinals, mockingbirds, woodpeckers, bluebirds, sparrows, wood thrushes and wild turkeys, who gobble up the fruit.
|A closer look at the bodacious berries|
The pear shaped seed pods of the bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) shrub are popping open to reveal the pumpkin orange nuts (buckeyes), which are revered by chipmunks and squirrels. As soon as the protein rich buckeyes hit the ground they magically disappear as squirrels hastily carry them off. (Note: they are poisonous to humans and livestock).
|Seasonally appropriate orange buckeye nuts|
Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is not your average holly. It is deciduous, which shows off their berries (on female plants) when the leaves fall from the branches. We have two female 'Winter Gold' shrubs that are supported by the male 'Southern Gentleman'. Birds, such as Cedar Waxwings and American Robins, are eager to consume these bright berries. And if the birds don't get them first, rabbits, squirrels, foxes and deer will vacuum them up. It's possible for the berries to persist through the winter, if wildlife doesn't get them.
|Winter Gold produces orange berries, a change of pace from the typical red|
Another showy berry comes from the Hearts-a-Bustin (Euonumus americanus) shrub. We grow these at the woodland edge where they enjoy the light shade of the understory habitat of the hardwood forest. These shrubs go unnoticed most of the year, but when the seed capsules burst open to reveal the bright red berries, they are show stoppers. Eastern bluebirds, wood thrushes, yellow-rumped warblers, northern mockingbirds and wild turkeys devour these berries and disseminate the seeds.
|Bursting with love for these berries|
To see how the blooms of Hearts-a-Bustin' are pollinated, see my post Ants, Unlikely Pollinators.
|seed capsule opening to reveal orange/red berries|
|Blue berries brighten autumn|
|young shrubs producing a few clusters of berries|
|Brilliant red sumac berries against bright blue sky|
|red sumac berries are edible to humans and wildlife (white berries are toxic)|
You can't beat berries for bursts of color that persists through fall and winter. They last much longer than most blooms and the fruits and berries are a critical source of food for many birds, especially those that are migrating. Adding berry worthy plants will add visual interest and variety to your garden well into the winter months, but most importantly will support wildlife through the seasons.