Our landscape in winter can often seem filled with browns and greys all winter but look a little closer and you might find a brilliant splash of bright red berries. Winterberry is a native shrub to the upper Midwest, growing in wet, acidic soils. So keep you eyes peeled for this beautiful shrub along road edges and low-lying areas.
These shrubs are not evergreens like the traditional holy we think of but deciduous meaning they lose their leaves each fall. With the first frost, this shrub's leaves blacken and fall. But what is left is a stunning display of bright red berries that will last well into winter. These berries feed numerous species of year-round birds through the winter including cedar waxwings, doves, jays, and many more.
The shrub gets between five and 12 feet tall and spreads about six feet wide. There is a male and female of the shrub and both are required for pollination. The female is the shrub that produces the red berries. They flower in late spring with small whitish/green flowers that are small and pretty unobtrusive. While there are many cultivars available for purchase, the wild plant can grow from seed or from suckers which will shoot up and create thickets of these shrubs in swampy areas. Seeing these bright red berries in the winter is sure to brighten your day.