Ilex verticillata 'Scarlett O'Hara'
Ilex verticillata, commonly called winterberry, is a deciduous holly that is native to eastern North America where it typically occurs in swamps, damp thickets, low woods and along ponds and streams. The form of this plant found in Missouri is Ilex verticillata var. padifolia, which occurs in “shut-ins”, granite rocky stream beds and sandstone bluffs in only 4 counties in the southeastern part of the state (Steyermark). This is a slow-growing, deciduous shrub with an upright-rounded habit that typically grows 3-12’ tall. In the wild, it often suckers to form large thickets or colonies. Elliptic to obovate, toothed, dark green leaves (2-3” long). Fall color is usually negligible, but in some years leaves may turn attractive shades of maroon. Relatively inconspicuous greenish-white flowers appear in the leaf axils in late spring. Flowers, if properly pollinated, give way to a crop of bright red berries (1/4” diameter) in late summer to fall. Berries are quite showy and will persist throughout the winter (hence the common name) and often into early spring. Berries provide considerable impact and interest to the winter landscape. Genus name comes from the Latin name Quercus ilex for holm oak in reference to the foliage similarities (holm oak and many of the shrubs in the genus Ilex have evergreen leaves). Specific epithet from Latin means whorled in reference to the arrangement of sessile fruits in pseudo-whorls around the stems. Common name comes form the quite showy berries that will persist throughout the winter and often into early spring.