July 21, 2017

Bird Food

Ilex verticillata | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Ilex verticillata | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Ilex verticillata | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Ilex verticillata | Photo courtesy of Glen Mittelhauser/Maine Natural History Observatory

Chances are you’ve seen Ilex verticillata as the earth is making the transition from fall to winter. When the leaves have fallen off the deciduous trees and shrubs, the brilliant red fruit of winterberry holly glisten like beacons in the landscape, usually near wetlands. This North American shrub blooms in late spring with white flowers on male and female plants, with the females producing the berries, an important food source for birds in the winter. A number of winterberry cultivars are grown in the nursery trade, including the USDA-release ‘Red Sprite’ and ‘Winter Gold,’ which boasts pinkish to golden-orange fruit.

Wild Wednesday is a collaboration of Garden Maine and Glen Mittelhauser of the nonprofit Maine Natural History Observatory, www.mainenaturalhistory.org.