Red Berries Of Black Elder Attractive To Birds

Well-chosen plant materials and the birds attracted by them do much to brighten the often drab days of midwinter.

Black BerriesPin

Black Alder: Winterberry

A good example is a black alder or winterberry (Ilex verticillata) whose fruits show red in September against their own foliage and continue the display long after the branches are bare.

The berries are particularly striking in winter when planted near hemlock, yew, Oriental spruce, or other evergreens, and if not eaten too avidly by birds, they will last into January. 

Birds Favored By Black Elderberries

Black elderberries are favored by the ruffed grouse and many other birds. Among them are the following:

  • Bluebirds
  • Waxwings 
  • Mockingbirds 
  • Cardinals
  • Purple Finches 
  • Evening Grosbeaks
  • Bobwhites
  • Robins
  • Thrushes
  • Catbirds
  • Thrashers
  • Most Of The Woodpeckers

Black alder is native from southern Canada to Florida and the west of the Mississippi Valley. Still, it will grow beyond its natural range if it is given sufficient moisture and is planted in a location with acid soil.

To Ensure Fruiting

Since it belongs to the holy family with male and female plants, a staminate (male) plant must be nearby for a pistillate (female) plant to bear fruit. 

In some regions, where these shrubs grow wild in abundance, insect-carried pollen or wind-blown pollen may reach the plant in sufficient quantities to fertilize a female garden plant. 

It is safer, however, to have both sexes in the same garden. If you have many plants in a small area, one male will serve to pollinate 10 females. If the plants are separated by intervening shrubbery, the ratio should be five to one. 

Where space is limited, a staminate plant may be planted in the same hole as the pistillate plant, and as these develop, the staminate plant should be pruned to a minimum number of branches.

Preferred Location

While the black alder is a denizen of low-marshy places, it does not absolutely require these conditions and does almost as well in gardens with well-drained soil. 

If grown in a dry, sandy location, it might be advisable to mulch the plants with peat moss, oak leaves, or pine needles. 

It will grow in part shade but more and brighter fruit is produced in full sunlight.

Most Effective In Mass-Planted

Black alder may be used in mixed borders or as specimens, but it is most effective when mass-planted. 

Then the upright manner of growth, the excellent summer foliage, and the fall and winter berries show the best advantage. 

When massed. They should be planted 6′ to 8′ feet apart, and the male plants placed in the corners or background where their lack of fruit will be least noticed. 

Box Alder

Box alder is easily kept at 8′ to 10′ feet. Removing old and dead wood will help keep plants free of insect and disease troubles.

All members of the holy family are difficult to transplant, and the black alder is no exception. 

Safest Time In Moving Box Alder Plant

The safest time to move a plant is early spring before growth starts. Order plants from nurseries that practice root priming or frequent transplanting. 

Small plants may be moved with hare roots, but it is wiser to have larger plants balled and bur-lapped before they are transferred in front of the nursery rows.

44659 by Alfred E. Hunk