Winter Berries for the Birds
By Kathy Conner Cornell VCE Southside Master Gardener Many of us enjoy feeding the birds during the winter. However, insect eaters aren’t interested in bird seed. Often they will feed on winter berries. The purists feel that you should never feed the birds but provide appropriate plants for winter food and berries fit the bill (so to speak). My favorite winter berry plant is winterberry, Ilex verticillata, The plant gets these fabulous red berries that bluebirds especially love. Because it is a holly it is dioceous, meaning that there are male and female plants. Be aware that only females bear fruit and must have a male close by for the fruit to develop. One male can service several females. The fruits appear in September and persist until March/April if the birds haven’t already cleaned the plant bare. Winterberry is not that picky about location and is alright with wet soils. It flowers better in full sun thus will have more berries. Beautyberry, Callicarpa americana, has these beautiful lilac to purple berries. I have observed mockingbirds feasting on the berries. The small light pink flowers last for 2 months in the summer. I have seen lots of bees lapping their nectar. The leaves have a lime green color. Beautyberry is ok with most soils and does bloom better in full sun.