Saturday, September 12, 2009


This female Winterberry (aka Black Alder), Ilex verticillata, grows in my backyard wetland area. Each year, once the leaves have dropped, I am entertained with a lovely splash of red--that is, until the birds clean them up in early Winter.

From How To Know Wild Fruits:

"The fence and stone-wall growth is brightened in the fall by the Black Alder with its scarlet berries. These are said to be eaten by flickers, and its growth along fence rows would suggest its dispersal by birds. The bushes with the berries snow-laden are a beautiful sight. I was glad to recognize these bright wild fruits in the windows of New York City florists, placed amidst fantastic orchids and customary Christmas decorations. The plant ranges throughout the eastern part of the United States as far west as Missouri. It also occurs in Nova Scotia."


No blossoms now adorn this ruined bower,
Nor any leaves. The wind relentless blows
Right through the naked branches, which disclose
The mossy secret plann'd in happier hour
By some fair bird. But Winter has its dower,
And many a dainty bead and coral shows—
These clustered berries ruddier than the rose,
And gaily dancing, though the storm-clouds lower.
Thus o'er the leafless boughs bright wings still flutter,
Nor miss the blossoms mid the fruitage red;
For which sweet voices, silent now, will utter
Melodious thanks when these dark days are fled:
Oh, may the Winter of my age be found
With timely fruits of ripe experience crowned.

~ Richard Wilton

Peterson, Maude Gridley. How To Know Wild Fruits. New York, 1905. 98. Web. Google Book Search. 11 Sep 2009.

Wilton, Richard. Lyrics, Sylvan and Sacred. London, 1878. 36. Web. Google Book Search. 11 Sep 2009.


  1. Hard to use the word 'winter' so early in the season when I am still fighting to hold onto what little real summer we have had this year, but I always love to see the winterberries. They grow thick in our wetlands and are a welcome sea of color come November, especially when warmed by the late afternoon sun of the waning year... that "certain slant of light" that is so full of poignant emotion.
    ~ gretchen

  2. Jeez Gretchen, this is some lovely writing. And I think I know what you mean--perhaps the nearest feeling to describe that for me is melancholy.

    Ah well, we are still in the season of bounty and harvest. The autumnal colors have yet to pick up down this way, but soon enough. It's odd-sometimes the seasons appear to fly by, and yet...nature takes its time. Subtle progress and change and still always moving.