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Ilex verticillata

Ilex verticillata - Virginia winterberry

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The Virginia winterberry from North America is a deciduous relation of the familiar holly used by florists. This shrub varies in height from one to three metres, with a tight network of branches and dense foliage. The flowers are small and easily go unnoticed. The red berries are the best feature, remaining on the shrub far into the winter. Berries are formed only on female shrubs, but males are needed for pollination.

Virginia winterberry prefers moist to wet acid soil, and even thrives in standing water. It flowers and fruits best in sunshine but accepts deep shade. In North America the shrub is used in massed plantings beside water, for example, when the attractive berries enliven the waterscape. In Europe the species is rarely used though plants from good provenances thrive as far north as southern Finland. Mustila’s own collecting expeditions have brought seed to the Arboretum from the 1990s onwards.

 

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