80214The bright red berries of late cotoneaster, Cotoneaster lacteus, that ripen in autumn may not be as profuse or as bright red as those of firethorn, but they last longer, and even into winter. Birds strangely seem to avoid them. Although the clustered small berries can look just like firethorn berries, they are usually less shiny, and darker red. Clusters of tiny pale white flowers bloom in spring. The small evergreen leaves have a nice glossy and veined texture on top, with hazy gray or tan tomentum (fuzz) below. The grayish brown bark of old stems resembles that of apple or pear trees.

Tall arching stems can get just tall enough to reach first floor eaves, or taller if they happen to be shaded or leaning onto other larger shrubbery for support. In full sun, growth is more dense. Mature plants get a bit broader than tall. Unlike firethorn, late cotoneaster lacks thorns, which make it easier to work with as an espalier or informal hedge. Growth is a bit too irregular for a formal hedge.

Established plants do not need much water, and in some situations can do well without any watering. Unfortunately, late cotoneaster has naturalized as an invasive exotic weed in some regions.

5 thoughts on “Late Cotoneaster

  1. Not being familiar with this species, I read the brief Wikipedia article on it and learned that “Cotoneaster lacteus, the late cotoneaster or milkflower cotoneaster, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Cotoneaster of the family Rosaceae, native to the Yunnan Province of China. It is a large evergreen shrub growing to 4 m (13 ft) tall and wide. Clusters of white flowers are followed by masses of small, globose, red fruits (pomes) in autumn. Unusually for this genus, the fruits are avoided by birds, hence garden escapes are rare, and the fruit persists on the plant throughout the winter. / The Latin specific epithet lacteus refers to the milk-white flowers.”

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    1. Yes. My post is copied from my weekly gardening column. (Recent articles typically get posted on Mondays and Tuesdays, but this one – with the main article from yesterday – got switched with the the old article that should have posted for yesterday and today.


    1. Don’t be jelous. You have plenty of other red berries that are more colorful. Most cotoneasters are a subdued shade of red, or maybe even brownish red. I don’t know why these are so bright. Holly berries are rare here, and we do not even grow the winterberry hollies.

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