Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red'
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 comes from the Latin name for holm oak, Quercus ilex, in reference to foliage similarities (holm oak and most Ilex shrubs have evergreen leaves). Specific epithet from Latin means whorled in reference to the arrangement of sessile fruits in pseudo-whorls around the stems. ‘Winter Red’ is a female winterberry cultivar that typically matures to 6-8’ tall. Among winterberry cultivars, it is noted for heavy fruiting, bright red fruit color and good retention of the bright fruit color throughout winter. It is a slow-growing, deciduous, suckering shrub with an upright rounded habit. Lustrous dark green leaves (to 3-5” long). Relatively inconspicuous whitish flowers appear in the leaf axils in late spring. Flowers, if properly pollinated, give way to a profuse crop of bright red berries (3/8” diameter) in fall. Berries are quite showy and will persist throughout the winter (hence the common name) often to early spring. Berries provide considerable impact and interest to the winter landscape. Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Gold Medal (Steyer Award) in 1995.