Berries of hollies (Ilex) and beautyberries (Callicarpa americana and C. dichotoma) stand out along margins of the garden, but in the thicket just beyond a heavily berried vine climbs into the scrubby trees. This is Oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus), a lovely and vigorous vine if it was not invasive.
Several years ago, extensive labor was required to untangle another bittersweet that started in a weedy mulberry just off the edge of the garden, then climbed into’Elizabeth’ magnolia. The untangling was difficult, and grubbing out the roots was long and hard, though fortunately, successful. This second bittersweet is a ways beyond my property, and in a tangle of brambles I don’t believe I’ll have the energy or motivation to grub it out. Inevitably, there will be more.
Again, the Winterberry hollies (Ilex verticillata) are loaded after years of declining numbers of berries. A male holly was planted a few years ago. I suppose the male that once pollinated this grouping was chopped out when a grove of bamboo was dug out, but this male has boosted the quantity of berries.
There are a variety of evergreen hollies in the garden. I haven’t a clue which are pollinators for the others, and I have no reason to investigate as long as there are berries. Acquaintances tell me they can tell a male from female flower, and certainly I am curious, but I expect my fading eyesight would find it difficult to see such detail. I can, however, tell an Oriental bittersweet from the native American.
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Two landscape elements that are commonly lacking from landscapes here are colorful bark and colorful berries. They may be more popular in the Sierra Nevada where it snows. Pyrcantha used to be more popular. Cotoneaster is now more popular, but not as productive with berries. I still want to try beautyberry.
I don’t see pyracantha much anymore. I suppose the thorns scare people. Hollies are our most common berries.
Thorns are not as tolerable as they used to be, even where they might be useful. I think the last pyracantha I planted with was espaliered on top of a fence to work like barbed wire. Pyracantha lost popularity years ago when fireblight was a problem, and it never regained popularity afterward among those who don’t want to bother with thorns.