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.
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.
Coralberry 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
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
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 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.
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 [email protected]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 [email protected]An English Girl Rambles.
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.
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.
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