Simply The Best Natives-Coralberry


Our gardens provide us with harvests of more than fruit and flowers.  They give us moments of quiet joy, beauty, and inspiration, as well as lessons in personal empowerment.  ~Diane Dreher



As this year draws to a close, and the snow falls gently outside my window, I am thinking about a splendid native shrub that brings wonderful color to my wildlife garden.  The first autumn I saw these coral pink colored berries I was hooked.  Of course I am talking about Symphoricarpos orbiculatus or Coralberry part of the Honeysuckle Family (Caprifoliaceae).  It also is known as Indian currant, Buckbrush Indian currant, snapberry, buckleberry, wolfberry, waxberry or turkey bush.  It grows from 3-6 ft high and 2-3 feet wide sporting lovely green and white flowers in spring.  

As I profile this wonderful native plant, I am linking in with Gail@Clay and Limestone for her Wildflower Wednesday meme.


And I am also joining forces with a local native plant nursery, Amanda’s Garden, to purchase native plants for my garden.  The owner, Ellen Folts, specializes in woodland, prairie and wetland native perennials.




Growing Conditions

IMG_6699Coralberry grows in a wide variety of conditions but especially needs either part to full shade.  And it can grow in dry to moist conditions.  This shrub does benefit from vigorous pruning in the spring to about knee height, especially every five to-six years, to encourage a more compact growth and new branches.  It can also be cut dramatically to the ground to allow it come back bushier, and stimulating more berry production.

I have mine growing in clay moist soil beside my gazebo in the shade of mature maple and ash trees.

Coralberry can be propagated from cuttings of the current growth.  You can also collect the seeds from the berries but they are difficult to germinate. 




Benefits to Wildlife 

One of the best aspects of the Coralberry, besides the gorgeous berries, is its benefit to wildlife.  Many animals are attracted to the shrub for various reasons.IMG_3418

Insects such as bees, wasps and flies love the flowers. Caterpillars of many moths, including Hemaris thysbe (Hummingbird Clearwing), feed on the foliage.  

Birds, particularly robins, love to eat the berries that appear in fall.  The buds and berries also are eaten by the bobwhite quail.  And birds, rodents and small mammals will use the bushes for nesting sites or cover.

It is said that Coralberry is a favorite food of the white-tailed deer, but I have never seen the deer eating my Coralberry.  But even if deer browse this plant, it will keep it pruned for better growth.




Where Are They Found 

IMG_8437The Coralberry is native to the Eastern U.S. from New York south to eastern Texas, west to South Dakota and Colorado. 

They are usually found in shaded or open woods, stream or river banks, post oak woodlands where the Coralberry can form a colony.  





This shrub is great for winter interest if the birds don’t gorge themselves on all the berries like mine do. 

Coralberry is also a great shrub to grow in clay, and as an understory plant in shaded areas of the garden.IMG_6704 And because of its spreading habit, it can be used for erosion control.  

Coralberry is said to be hardy from zones 2a to 7b giving it a great range within which to grow.   And with this deciduous shrub having been cultivated since 1727, there are now several cultivars some compact and some with variegated foliage. 

As always be forewarned that the berries of this plant can be harmful to small mammals and humans.  So always use care and consult an expert before ever using any native plant for medicinal purposes.




Folklore and Tales  

Native American peoples used these shrubs to treat eye issues as the berries have a mild sedative property.  

They also used the dried roots, also known as devil’s shoestrings, as an easy method for catching fish by stunning them.


 coralberry collage



Do you grow Coralberry?  Do you have a favorite berry producing native bush?




In A Vase On Monday



On this last Monday of 2014, I am still putting interesting plant material together for a winter vase.  I am linking in with Cathy@Rambling in the Garden  who hosts this wonderful meme, In a Vase on Monday.   I am also linking in with Today’s Flowers hosted by Denise@An English Girl Rambles.




end of yr vase

The colors of red and green are still the highlights right now.  I cut some wonderful branches from my native red twig dogwood or Cornus sericea.  I love the color of the red branches in the vase.  I then added foliage from Morella pensylvanica or Northern bayberry leaves which are starting to change colors.  Added to that are open seedpods of Baptisia australis, and a few seedheads from an unnamed sedum.




DSCN7892 And while this very natural arrangement has no flowers, I think it is even more beautiful without them.




Next up on the blog:  

As the New Year begins, I will be looking over some of my gardens through the seasons deciding on some needed changes.  And of course I plan to continue profiling native plants, reading gardening books and maybe a few surprises.

I am linking in with Michelle for her Nature Notes meme at her new blog just for Nature Notes.  It is a great way to see what is happening in nature around the world every Tuesday. 



I am also joining in I Heart Macro with Laura@Shine The Divine that happens every Saturday.

All original content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View, 2010-2014.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.


71 Replies to “Simply The Best Natives-Coralberry”

      1. She does Pam but she does not have this one…I had to find this online through Prairie Moon. But Ellen at Amanda’s Garden has loads of native plants and many I have profiled.

        I need to order from her this year but more toward fall I think.

  1. The pink berries are very pretty – and how useful to have a plant that can host caterpillars, even be eaten by deer, without being irreversibly damaged. Have a very happy New Year.

    1. I thought the same thing Lucy…which is why I do love my native plants….they are tough and can take a beating. I already have my Stuck Foot posts all scoped out for this coming year as I want to explore more of my garden…and leave a few maybe for exploring elsewhere. And I will have a new tree to report on in spring if I can keep the deer away from it.

      Wishing you the best in the New Year.

  2. Haha! I had to laugh when I read about your coral berry, as it is a version of this which I ousted from what is now my ‘hedge border’ and which I christened the Devil’s Plant for its capacity to put out new suckers all the time and overrun the borders. Whether or not it started out as a cultivated form but it became a scrubby plant with few leaves and only an occasional berry. Our neighbour used it to plug gaps in the hedge but it was very efficient at increasing its territory – devil’s shoestrings indeed! Yours is very pretty though and I thought it might have deserved a place in the vase too – although the vase is still very pretty without it. I need to check pruning instructions for cornus as I am not sure if mine could take more than an odd twig being removed yet, and your twiggy joints look brilliant! Great use of seedheads too – I have my eye on a few things here as well…. I wonder what will be in our vases next week – thanks so much for sharing your inspiration each week Donna.

    1. Those non-natives can wreak havoc Cathy…here Coralberry is controlled by deer. And sadly the berries are long gone as birds gorge on them so I couldn’t find any for vases. But perhaps next fall, I will find a few I can use in a vase.

      Glad you enjoyed my native cornus as it does well being pruned thankfully. The vase really did come out much better than I thought. Thanks for hosting Cathy.

  3. What a beautiful berry bush! We have a white one here in the PNW that is a native. I’m afraid my favorite berry bush at this time of year isn’t a native, it’s fragrant sweetbox/Sarcococca ruscifolia. It’s so wonderfully scented, and has flowers and berries both at the same time.

    1. Alison, I have seen gardeners profile their white berry bush there and I have long admired it too. I wish sweetbox liked my garden…a wonderful bush.

  4. I don’t have coralberry but am enamoured with those pretty berries Donna. My favourite shrub (or tree form) is serviceberry for when its berries ripen the race is on between the birds, squirrels and raccoons. I’ve even managed to get a few and they’re tasty blueberry-like fruits.
    Thank you for linking and supporting Mosaic Monday, your knowledgeable contributions are always appreciated.
    Happy New Year!

    1. So kind of you to say so Judith….I am hoping to finally get a serviceberry to grow in my garden. I need to strategically place it and protect it as the deer weakened it and it lasted 2 yrs.

  5. I’d never seen a coralberry before. They’re very pretty. Too bad they’re ill-suited to my climate. We depend on Nandina and Heteromeles (Toyon) berries in my garden – unfortunately, I’ve no berries in colors other than red unless you count the blue ones occasionally found on a plant I believe is some form of ivy. The dogwood stems in your vase would look nice with the coralberry too – do the berries last through the snow?

    1. Any berries in my garden are gone in late summer or fall as the birds eat them…pink, white and red ones all loved equally. But even red are wonderful all winter. Of course in your garden Kris, you have so many beautiful flowers still gracing your garden. I bet they overshadow the berries.

  6. I have never seen Coralberry before. It’s beautiful! Lots of interesting info and pictures here Donna, and thanks again for linking with Today’s Flowers 🙂 Happy New Year!

  7. Donna, your vase is fabulous. The red twig dogwood is a strong addition to the other natural materials. Hope you have a happy new year. Susie

    1. So glad you liked the vase….I had my eye on that red twig for months and I expect it will reappear in another vase this winter too. Wishing you a Happy New Year Susie!

  8. The coralberry is pretty, it is great to know it is native too. A lovely addition to your garden! I have to check it out for my planting zone..

    I wish you and your family a very happy & healthy New Year!

  9. I haven’t come across Coralberry before, but it does look and sound like a useful little shrub. Your vase is wonderful… all that soft colour in late December, and with snow on the ground too! And I agree it certainly doesn’t need any flowers adding as a distraction. Have a Happy New Year Donna!

    1. Thanks Cathy…I am finding so much to forage for my vases and the natural elements without flowers are quite beautiful I have learned.

      Happy New Year!

  10. Sounds like a great shrub! I think there are some growing at the Arboretum, but I don’t have any here in my garden. If we ever decide/get around to pulling out the non-native shrubs around here, this would be a good sustitute. I love the coral pink berries!

  11. A perfect vase today Donna!! And I will have to make note of this Coralberry as its berries are just so vibrant and beautiful! And a double bonus that our garden friends benefit from it as well! Hope you are well friend….Happy New Year to you! Nicole xo

  12. Your coralberry captures are so beautiful. You’ve got the touch. You’ve captured the gentle and soft mood of the shaded garden perfectly. I love arrangements that highlight branches and leaves.

    1. I am hoping to plant a few more Beth as it really is so pretty although the birds don’t let me see the berries for very long… 🙂

  13. Know the white version ‘snowberry’ very well – as children we would stamp gently on the berries just to hear them pop. Apparently they can be a problem with suckering so ideal in wild, roomy space – grow them in my neighbour’s garden but these shade toleraters would prefer it to be a sunnier spot to flower. Our local parks have started to grow the coral version as well – an unusual pastel for this time of year. Talking of which – wish you and your family a ‘living from Happiness’ New Year & look forward to many more garden tales

    1. I would love the white berry version for my white garden….my coralberry does grow well in lots of shade all summer which is a wonder….thanks for the good wishes Laura! Hoping you have a grand, ‘picturesque’ New Year with lots of exciting photographic adventures!

  14. I’ve just planted Symphoricarpos Mother of Pearl – I love almost anything with berries but the birds usually put an end to it too soon. Lovely, informative post – thanks for that, Donna. Have a fab new year!

    1. Annette I am thinking of adding the white berry Symphoricarpos for both the birds as they gorge themselves in my garden too…but also for me as I too love berries. Wishing you a splendid New Year!

    1. Thanks Janet and glad you enjoyed my simple vase…we have had topsy turvy weather but finally getting snow again today so who knows what the vases will be next! Wishing you a fabulous 2015 Janet!

  15. Thank you for reminding me of this shrub–I don’t have a coralberry, but I’d love to find a place for one somewhere in my garden. I am still waiting to see the promised berries on the viburnum I planted a few years ago, but my young serviceberry already had a few berries in its first year here, so I’m very pleased with it. Another lovely arrangement! Wishing you a very Happy New Year, Donna!

    1. Thanks so much Rose….I do hope your viburnum will bear fruit this year….the birds love mine. Wishing you a most Happy New Year!

  16. I have a cultivar of coralberry called ‘Blade of Sun’. It only grows to about 2 ft high but spreads very wide. It’s extremely tough and has purple berries. I’m hoping for a bigger berry display next year one they’ve settled in more.

    1. Sallie thank you for saying so….I really have enjoyed finding natural elements from the garden for arrangements. Hope you have a wonderful New Year!

    1. One of the main reason I love to profile plants is for that very reason…raise awareness of the plant so others might consider planting it. There are so many great natives and I love to share what I learn…so I am glad it helps Michelle! I am learning too.

  17. I have a couple of coralberries. I fell in love with them at the nursery and was thrilled to find out they are native here. Ha! They have struggled mightily to survive. Initially I bought three, and two are living, barely. I have transplanted them twice, trying to find the right spot. Transplantation #3 is coming up. I think I need to find a spot where they will get more water. But this should be easier. This plant is almost a weed in some places in Alabama!

  18. I haven’t seen this one before – what a wonderful shrub! I love berrying shrubs. I have some Winterberry Hollies, and I’d love to add more berrying plants. I love the pink berries of the Coralberry, and how great that it is tolerant of clay.

  19. I do grow the related snowberry and have been rather disappointed by their performance. They are not nearly as ornamental as the coralberries you show, but perhaps they’ll improve with time.

  20. The nursery I was associated with grows this plant and like all the berry plants he grows, I love to have them installed on properties for wildlife. I like the berries too as they are attractive in the landscape.

  21. Thanks for introducing me to a shrub that I had never heard of before and that would grow in my conditions. Something else to consider as I design my new front garden, or perhaps as an addition to my woodland serenity garden.

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