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Winterberry - Ilex verticillata

Winterberry - Ilex verticillata

Ilex verticillata, otherwise known as Winterberry or Winterberry Holly, is a perennial deciduous shrub native to Michigan and the UP.  This hardy shrub can reach 3 to 12 feet tall depending on conditions. Its natral preference is wet areas with rich, acidic soils. It prefers full sun and will produce more berries in the sun, but can tolerate partial shade.


Small white flowers develop on third-year shrubs in spring to early summer. Flowers are needed by spring butterflies and bees for both necatar and pollen. Winterberry is dioecious, meaning each plant is either male or female.  On female plants, the flowers are followed by dense clusters of brilliant red berries that persist throughout winter. The berries are highly decorative and brighten up dreary winter landscape, or can be harvested and used for Christmas decorations (berries are not edible to humans).


Because only female plants produce fruit, and must have a male nearby (within 40 feet) for pollination, we recommend planting several Winterberry to improve the chances of berries. In three years you can identify male plants by those that have flowers in clusters with obvious yellow pollen anthers. Female third-year plants have single flowers or groups of 2 or 3 with a green button (ovule)  in the center. Please note that our plants are grown from U.P. seed. Since it takes 3 years before you can tell the sex, and we don't own them that long, we can not tell you whether a particular plant is male or female.  However, both male and female plants flower and are benificial to pollinators, and both serve as host plants for caterpillars which support birds, so no matter what you get you are making the world a better place.


We are working on growing this plant from local seed, but our 2024 stock is sourced from a downstate nursery. These 6-12" shrubs will be available in gallon pots. The nursery has reported that, although they verify their stock to be free of Neonicotinoids, they do use other pesticides. We offer this tempoary option because using a native plant to landscape instead of a similarly-raised cultivar will ultimately be beneficial, especially for a long-lived shrub. However, if you want to wait for pesticide-free, U.P. genotypes, we hope our seedlings will germinate this spring and grow fast!

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