If you enjoy watching wildlife in the fall and winter months, consider planting trees, shrubs or vines that produce berries. Many native berries mature in late summer to early fall and disappear, in part, because animals and birds eat and spread them. Fortunately, many native plants and introduced species can provide beautiful berries that persist into the winter months and provide a critical food source for wildlife.
Berries are an important food source for winter birds such as the black-capped chickadee, cedar waxwings and cardinals. If you don’t have any berry producing plants in your yard or garden, this is the perfect time to do your research and plan to incorporate one or more in your landscape come next spring. Native trees, shrubs and vines that keep some of their berries into the winter months include:
- American Cranberry
- American holly
- Pepper Trees
- Japanese laurel
- Chokecherry tree
- Mulberry trees
- Dog rose
- Burning Bush
- Heavenly Bamboo
- Scarlet Firethorn
- European Cranberrybush
The American cranberry is the most commercially important species and is found wild in the greater part of the northeastern United States. It is robust with round, oblong, or pear-shaped berries that vary in colour from pink to very dark red or mottled red and white.
American holly foliage
American holly foliage is stiff, spiny, leathery, and dark to olive green. The spines are as sharp as thorns, making it a daunting task for humans to navigate through the dense, prickly foliage. In late spring, small white flowers appear all along the branches. In summer, following pollination, green berries form along the branches during the summer. The berries are four-seeded drupes, or fleshy fruits surrounding a central seed or seeds. In fall through winter, the tree undergoes a transformation as the berries turn from inconspicuous green to glorious, crimson red.
The common snowberry is a deciduous shrub that produces pink flowers and white fruit. The snowberry’s light green leaves are ovate, rounded, or elliptical. They measure up to 2 inches long. Clusters of tiny pink flowers appear at the ends of the branches in late spring to summer; it’s self-pollinating. It’s a great addition to many types of gardens and is a showy, globe shape for the landscape.
Pepper tree (Schinus molle) is a quick growing evergreen tree that grows up to 15 meters (50 feet) tall and wide. The fruit are round drupes with woody seeds that turn from green to red, pink or purplish, carried in dense clusters of hundreds of berries that can be present year round. The rough grayish bark is twisted and drips sap. The bark, leaves and berries are aromatic when crushed. Flowers are small, white and borne profusely in panicles at the ends of the drooping branches.
Japanese laurel is a rounded, large evergreen shrub or small tree standing 2 to 5 meters in height. It has a ranging habit with branches bending and twisting every which way in the deep shade of its mountain home, in search of light. The leaves grow opposite each other and seem to dangle off the ends of the long, sparsely branched stems in clusters. The shrub is characterized with reddish purple flowers in spring, and red berries (on female plants) in fall.
Also commonly referred to as cranberry bush, viburnums are often used as ornamental fixtures in the home landscape. Viburnums range in height from 2 feet to 30 feet. Their flowers range from sweetly fragrant to unpleasantly scented and are primarily creamy white, but can vary from white to pink. The individual florets grow in clusters usually found at the ends of branches. The brilliant colored fruits are yellow, orange, red, pink, blue or black.
Also Read: Different Types of Holly Trees And Shrubs
Rowan trees, also known as mountain ash, are deciduous, berrying trees with thin toothed leaves arranged in pairs off a central stalk. They bear attractive spring blossom followed by bright red or yellow berries in late winter into autumn, against a backdrop of fresh green, pinnate leaves. Many of them are suitable for growing in small gardens, and some varieties have spectacular autumn foliage. Their flowers are visited by pollinators and their berries are an important source of autumn fuel for birds such as blackbirds and robins.
The cotoneaster is a deciduous or evergreen shrub. They bear a long season of interest thanks to their prolific summer flowers followed by deep red berries, which remain on the plant from autumn through winter. Some fast-growing species can reach the size of small trees, while other species spread horizontally at a significantly slower growth rate. Depending on the species of cotoneaster, the plant might be appropriate for ground cover or ornamental hedges.
The chokecherry is a small shrub or tree, often forming dense thickets. Leaves on chokecherry are elliptical and have finely serrated margins. In the fall, the foliage turns yellow. The leaf stalks are slender and two gland-dots can be found on them. The bark is smooth, becoming scaly, and is gray-brown with white lenticels. The flowers bloom in clusters in late spring. Following the flowers, the fruit that is known as chokecherry form and are shiny dark red or blackish. They have a bitter or astringent taste, hence one of the common names bitter cherry.
Morus alba, known as white mulberry, common mulberry and silkworm mulberry, is a fast-growing, small to medium-sized mulberry tree which grows to 10–20 m tall. Mulberry trees bear small, unremarkable blooms that become plentiful fruits that look much akin to a slender blackberry. The berries ripen in stages and drop from the tree as they mature. Mulberries can be eaten raw or made into luscious preserves, pies, and wine.
Also Read: Different Types of Dogwood Trees And Shrubs
Amelanchier, also known as shadbush, shadwood or shadblow, serviceberry or sarvisberry, Juneberries grow on small shrub-like trees that reach approximately 5 to 8 meters in height. The ovate leaves have a gently toothed margin and turn brilliant shades orange and red in the fall. In early spring the trees are laden with whitish pink blossoms which later develop into clusters of small green berries.
Fully ripe Juneberries become a shade of dark purple with an occasional magenta blush. Juneberry fruit is popular eaten fresh. It can also be made into jellies, jams, pies, and even wine. If picked when just a little under ripe, it has a tartness that translates well into pies and preserves.
Also known as common spindle tree, spindle bush (Euonymus europaeus) is an upright, deciduous shrub that becomes more rounded with maturity. The plant produces greenish-yellow flowers in spring, followed by pinkish-red fruit with orange-red seeds in autumn. The dull green leaves turn yellow in fall, eventually morphing to yellow-green, and then finally an attractive shade of reddish-purple.
Hawthorn is a common thorny shrub in the rose family that grows up to 5 feet tall on hillsides and in sunny wooded areas throughout the world. Its flowers bloom in May. They grow in small white, red, or pink clusters. Small berries, called haws, sprout after the flowers. They are usually red when ripe, but they may also be black. Hawthorn leaves are shiny and grow in a variety of shapes and sizes.
This deciduous shrub produces many arching stems that are covered in small thorns. The toothed leaves are a medium green color. Showy flowers appear in the late spring, and small, oval, glossy, red-orange fruits (or rose hips) follow the blooms. Besides providing visual interest for several months, these hips are particularly attractive to wildlife. Like most wild rosebushes, it has a growth habit that is considered aggressive and, thus, invasive in some areas, overcoming desired plants in the garden.
Also Read: Varieties of Fast Growing Shrubs
Burning bush shrubs are mounded, with multiple stems and angular branches. They are incredibly eye-catching, with their vibrant red leaves in fall that appear as if they’re on fire. They drop in the winter, and the shrubs’ finely ridged, green-brown stems are on full display. In direct contrast to their warm hue in fall, burning bush shrubs have lush blue-green leaves in spring and summer.
Burning bushes bloom from May to June with inconspicuous, small, green flowers. The fruits of this shrub are small, round, red berries that appear in September or late fall; you still may be seeing a few of these berries on the shrubs in your yard in November.
Nandina domestica commonly known as nandina, heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo is an elegant evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub that looks good in every season. Its delicate, evergreen foliage has red or purple tints in spring and in summer, the plant bears sprays of tiny white flowers. In summer, the foliage turns pale green, and green berries begin to appear. These turn bright red in autumn, as the foliage takes on fiery red or bronze tints. The berries and foliage remain on the plant throughout winter, giving colour and interest.
Scarlet Firethorn is a thorny, semi-evergreen shrub of bushy habit with glossy, oval, dark green leaves. In late spring to early summer, a profusion of white flowers held in dense clusters cover the spiny branches, and contrast nicely against the dark green foliage. They are followed by masses of brilliant berries that ripen to bright red-orange in fall, and persist well into winter. Hungry birds feast on them. Evergreen in mild climates, Scarlet Firethorn is perfect for use as an impenetrable hedge or screen or massed to cover slopes. It can also be grown against a wall or fence.
Winterberry, or black alder, is a species of holly characterized by brightly-colored fruit from fall through winter. It occurs particularly in wetland habitats, but also on dry sand dunes and grassland. This deciduous holly grows 6 to 12 ft. high with a similar spread and bears a lavish display of fruit on current season’s wood. Fruit colors range from bright (crimson) red to golden-yellow-orange, depending on the cultivar. Like most hollies, it is dioecious, with separate male and female plants; the proximity of at least one male plant is required to pollenize the females in order to bear fruit.
Beautyberry is a deciduous shrub that grows between 3 and 6 feet tall and wide on average, though it’s been known to reach 9 feet tall. It has a moderate to fast growth rate, gaining around 1 to 2 feet per year until it is mature. This plant is known for one remarkable feature: its bright purple berries that grow around the plant’s stems in plump clusters. The berries appear in the late summer or early fall and can persist into winter, providing visual interest for the landscape and food for wildlife. The berries are edible for both people and animals, and some people even use them to make jelly and other foods.
European cranberrybush is a wonderful deciduous shrub that develops a pleasing round, mounded habit when mature. In late spring to early summer, this multi-stemmed, deciduous shrub produces showy, lacy, white flowers in flat clusters of tiny fertile florets surrounded by an outer ring of larger sterile florets.
In late summer, the attractive blooms give way to pendulous clusters of ornamental fleshy, translucent, bright red berries that persist through mid fall. By winter, they shrivel and resemble dried red raisins. They are quite attractive to birds and wildlife who will happily feast on them. In the fall, the handsome foliage of relatively large, dark green leaves, turns occasionally bright yellow-red or rich reddish purple.