Bursting with Berries

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A member of the mint family, Beauty Berries add a note of unusual and lovely color to our landscape.

Our southeastern habitats offer some amazing and strange fruits. We have berries of all colors in the fall, from the florescent mauve of the American Beauty Berry (on the right) to the alien-looking hot-magenta and burnt orange Heart’s-a-Busting (below left.)  After a muggy summer filled with a hospitable Southern-Style helping of insects and various fruits and seeds, the larder is far from bare for our winged friends if you were to plant one or two or more of these wonderful shrubs in the understory of your yard.  Have you heard the deafening chatter outside in the trees and in our parks over the past few weeks?  You may have a migratory flock passing through your neighborhood.  Question is, are there any groceries for them to nibble on?

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A plate full of Heart’s-a-Busting waiting to be cleaned for seeds.

 

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A deciduous holly species, Ilex decidua.

 

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A bowl full of Red Chokeberries, awaiting fermenting, cleaning and sowing.

North American warbler species and other migratory birds heading south as well as the resident populations that overwinter in the Georgia Piedmont rely on the late berries from our subcanopy shrubs.  The berries of some shrubs, like the Heart’s-a-Busting, the Sparkleberry, and our deciduous Hollies, are voraciously consumed on the way down to the winter’s tropical hangouts.  Berries that are not consumed immediately, but hang around throughout the winter are called winter persistent.  These berries seem to need a bit of aging in the cold weather (or hunger) to be palatable.  Beauty Berry seems to fall into this category.  Other berries, such as the scarlet Red Chokeberry,  seem to be ignored until the trip back north in the spring.  The gorgeous Red Chokeberries in my side yard delight me all winter long until the Cedar Waxwings come through in the spring.  Then the berries disappear in an hour’s time.