41126thumbBefore the colorful foliage of autumn falls and gets raked away, a few types of berries and fruit start to provide a bit of color to last into winter, or at least until birds and other wildlife eat them. Technically, the most colorful berries are actually intended for the birds, both those that overwinter and those that migrate south for the winter. The berries are designed by the plants that produce them to both entice birds, and to reward them for dispersing the seeds within.

Pyracantha (or firethorn) is the most colorful of the berries. Cotoneaster is similar, but not quite so prolific. Toyon and English hawthorn, which can grow as small trees, produce open clusters of similar bright red berries. Of these, only English hawthorn is deciduous, and can defoliate before the berries disappear. Although such fruit is abundant, it is not often messy because it gets devoured before it reaches the ground. However, the birds can be messy.

English holly really should produce more berries than it does, but there are not enough pollinators out there. (Hollies are dioecious, which means that plants are either male or female. Female plants need male pollinators to produce fruit.) Decades ago, when horticulture was taken more seriously, male pollinator plants were marketed with female plants. Some other types of holly somehow make a few more berries, especially as they get older.

Loquat, mahonia, pomegranate and some flowering crabapples try to produce colorful fruit, but are not quite as colorful. Pomegranate fruit can be impressive in its own way, but are just rusty reddish brown on the outside. Strawberry tree produces a few red berries throughout most of the year. Many types of pittosporum develop fruit, but most are about as green as their foliage. The sticky amber seeds are ‘interesting’ when the fruit splits open, if anyone happens to look that closely.

Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, mandarins and other citrus will be colorful later in winter, even though they do not care if they attract any birds. For now, persimmons are the biggest and most colorful fruits out in the garden.

5 thoughts on “Colorful Autumn And Winter Berries

  1. What a gorgeous photo of a troublesome plant! Because I garden in so much shade, I don’t really have an “out of the way” spot to leave a nice pokeweed plant or two. I see them coming up on the edges of other people’s woods, but never mine. At my house, they come up smack in the middle of an azalea or something. Needless to say, that has to go.

    But that’s okay. My birds have enough other berries–and a lot of berrying Virginia creeper, most of which they planted–to sustain them.

    Karla

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    1. I did not expect anyone to notice what a troublesome species this is. My primary articles are for California, where not many of us know what pokeweed is. It just moved into our region less than ten years ago. Although I have used the berries to make ink, I really dislike the species for being such in invasive exotic now.

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    1. Was orange the standard color for them there? Ours are mostly red. Of course, most are feral. I no longer now what cultivars are sold in nurseries, but I think they are all red too. I have not seen yellow since I was a kid. However, yellow is apparently popular in England.

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