|Monday Melange: Winterberry Holly|
|Written by Heleigh Bostwick Sunday, 26 November 2006|
Winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata) is a small to medium sized (typically 6 to 8 feet tall) multi-stemmed shrub that grows in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 9. Unlike most members of the Aquifoliaceae or holly family, winterberry holly is deciduous, the dark green leaves turning yellow before they drop in the fall. In keeping with its relatives however, winterberry holly displays bright red berries against light gray and whitish twigs and stems, that often persist into January and February.
In its natural habitat, winterberry holly is often found at the edges of wet areas. It prefers acidic moist soils and is best planted in large groupings for spectacular effect. For the best berry display, winterberry holly should be grown in full sun, although it will grow in some shade as well. Each shrub has either male or female flowers, which grow on the current year’s growth. Therefore, both male and female plants, in a suggested planting ratio of 1 to 3 or 5, must be present in order for pollination to occur and subsequently produce the red fruits or berries.
Most members of the holly family have poisonous berries and the winterberry holly is no exception; however, the leaves are made into a tea and the bark has astringent properties and is an antiseptic as well.