can anyone identify this tree with berries?

maylandFebruary 11, 2009

I took these photos on Emory campus. The berries were so bright against the sky, I thought I'd love to have one in our garden to add some winter color. Does anyone know what this is?

If it helps to ID, the photos were taken at the end of December (although the trees still have some berries left), but its taken me a while to upload.

Thanks very much.

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well, (slightly embarrassed), i came up with the bright idea of searching google for "winter" and "berry", and came up with "winterberry", which it appears this is!

Sounds like I would need to plant a male as well as a female, to get lots of berries. They are really striking though.

Here is a link that might be useful: winterberry

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 2:49PM
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This could be a Hawthorn (check out 'Winter King') or it could be a deciduous Holly (but not Ilex verticillata, the one they call winterberry). check out Ilex decidua (Possumhaw).

The leaves would help to identify it; you could also try cutting open of the berries - that might help to id it.

But my guess would be that this is Hawthorn 'Winter King' based on the way that the berries appear to be hanging from the stem.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 3:56PM
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I second esh. The berries are right, but the clincher are those ferocious thorns. Not a Washington Hawthorne, like ours, but something in that family. I have had tires punctured by stray clippings and I wouldn't want them any where near kids or dogs.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 8:56PM
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If you ask me, the "berries" look more like little apples than berries. It may be a crabapple (_Malus sp.). The best way to identify the tree is to call Emory's landscape architect, or horticulturist, and ask him/her.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2009 at 3:25PM
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Thanks everyone! I wonder if my "ideal" tree exists -- one that has bright red berries, but does not have the thorns of the Hawthorn and does not need a pollinator like an Ilex?!

Jay, yes, I should look up Emory's company and call them. I've seen several different companies around campus though, so I think they use a few, but I could try to find out.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 9:23AM
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I'm glad nippersdad pointed out the existence of thorns; I see them now, but missed them earlier.

It won't be long before these leaf out. If you don't get an answer by then, grab a few leaves for identification. Better yet, snip off a small branch so that you can refer back to it. Leaf arrangement (opposite or alternate) is important to know as well.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 9:29AM
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Dear esh ga,
I'm shocked that you'd recommend snipping leaves and twigs from Emory's tree! Isn't that a form of horticultural vandalism? A phone call to Emory's horticulturist, or the university's head of the grounds department, should shed light on this question without snipping leaves and twigs from this poor, defenseless tree.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 11:22AM
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Sorry to disappoint you jay.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 12:00PM
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As long as your ideal tree is one which produces berries without pollinators, I am afraid you will be doomed to disappointment. The Emory area has a fairly good habitat for pollinators so berries on Ilex should be no problem; are you worried about bee stings?

I have found that the natives and honeybees are not very aggressive; you have to actively make them angry! Unlike wasps, they are pretty happy just to have something like flowers to concentrate on and then go on their merry way. If stings are the concern, avoid fruiting trees which attract wasps to mature and fallen fruit.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 12:52PM
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Nippersdad, i probably used the wrong word. By pollinator, i meant that I would need to plant both a male and a female, which i read was the case for the Ilex winterberry (and so i assumed for other deciduous Ilex, although i could be assuming incorrectly).

So, not worried about bees, just about space (and money!). I'd like to plant a couple more fruit trees soon, and so I'd really like to add just one red berry tree rather than 2 (unless the male ilex have some redeeming features themselves). Maybe I'll just go for the Hawthorn and plant away from the driveway...and instruct the kids not to use as a weapon.

The tree in the photo is outside the building i work in at Emory -- I'd be less concerned about the tree and more concerned that my colleagues (or, horrors, my boss!) may think I'm insane if they see me snipping away! Emory is pretty good lately with planting natives -- lots of Itea virginica, oak-leaf hydrangeas, dwarf wax myrtles -- I've been tempted a few times to take a few cuttings (or to send in my 5-yr old with his scissors), but have resisted thus far...

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 1:50PM
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Dear esh ga,
No biggie.

Dear nippersdad,
The last bee whose buttons you want to press is the bumblebee. Physically lovely as they are and blessed with a soothing, stress-relieving buzz, they are downright pugilistic creatures who will attack with little, or no, provocation. I've been chased by single bumblebees intent on stinging unmercifully and repeatedly--angry, angry agressors, when riled.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 4:36PM
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Hi Jay:

I had forgotten about bumbles! We had one nesting in a mulch pile once and he/she chased me across the yard. You are quite right; pugnacious little critters!

Hi Mayland:

I wonder if you could plant two together like river birch? I see American Holly trees growing together in the woods fairly often, just as the birds planted them. I wonder what Esh thinks? Unless you are looking for larger specimens, I think you can get them pretty reasonably on eBay.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 11:43PM
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The thing about hollies is that there are so many of them in the landscape (chances are your neighbors on all sides have one or more) that if you live in a rather urban area, you may not need to plant a male for pollination. That is, there is likely a male in the vicinity already.

If one is tight on space, my suggestion is to buy a female (nice to get it with berries already if possible to be sure that your plant is mature enough to flower) one year. The next year, if it flowers but does set fruit, then you know you need a male nearby. Then you can go get a male.

I do not have any males in my yard that I have purchased (not ruling out that there is a wild one). I have two enormous cornuta hollies flanking the house and several wild deciduous hollies. They all set fruit.

That's my theory.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 6:38AM
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Nippersdad, I had never thought about looking for plants on Ebay. Now, there's a whole new shopping opportunity for me!

Esh, we have several evergreen hollies in our garden, as do our neighbors. Not sure i have seen any deciduous ones locally (I assume i need same species to pollinate?), but there certainly could be. Makes sense to plant a female and just see what happens in its first winter.

Thanks for all your help (off to browse Ebay...)

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:13AM
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As long as your different hollies bloom at the same time, you have a fair chance of any male helping out any female.

That's part of my theory.

By the way, the Dunwoody Nature Center will be having their 12th Annual Hard to Find Plant Sale featuring (at least) tiger-eye sumac, 'Black Lace' elderberry and lots of native azaleas. The order form will be on line in late Feb. We should ask them to have a few hollies ....

Here is a link that might be useful: Dunwoody Nature Center's site

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 11:24AM
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While we're talking about hollies, I would like your opinion, esh ga et al., about Foster's Holly #2 (_Ilex x attenuata_ 'Fosteri'). I have two small potted specimens of Foster's Holly #2 that I ordered from Forest Farm and am growing in containers until they're large enough to plant on opposite sides of my driveway's entrance. I think that I read somewhere that Foster's Holly #2 is self-fruitful, or hermaphroditic, or whatever, and, thus, doesn't require a pollinator to produce berries. What do you all know about Foster's Holly?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 12:08PM
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Foster's holly is hybrid between Ilex cassine and Ilex opaca, two native hollies. Two other well known cultivars with the same parents are 'Savannah' and 'East Palatka' (the second one forever burned into my brain thanks to that show on HGTV which was based in Florida).

'Savannah' is a beautiful holly and I would expect Foster's holly would be similarly so.

Not being very familiar with Foster's holly, I had not heard that it doesn't need a male. In looking around,, does confirm what you say, but other websites still say that it needs a male. This is a good description of how the plant came to be (and to be called #2) from

Foster holly is the common name attached to five different interspecific hybrids (Ilex cassine x Ilex opaca) introduced into cultivation in the 1950s by E. E. Foster of Foster Nursery in Bessemer, Alabama. Of the five original clones, #1 and #5 are no longer available in commerce, #4 is a male which is uncommonly available (female Foster hollies do not require a male pollinator for fruit development) and #2 and #3 are female plants which are commonly available but are so similar in appearance as to be virtually indistinguishable. Although #2 is by far the most common female clone, nurseries sometimes sell the clones today as male or female Foster hollies without reference to clonal numbers. Foster #2 is a small to medium-sized, broadleaf evergreen tree with a dense, upright, pyramidal habit. It typically grows to a mature height of 20-30' tall with a spread of 10-15' unless pruned otherwise. Features glossy, dark olive green, elliptic to obovate, evergreen leaves (2-3" long). Each leaf has 1-5 well-spaced, tiny, spiny, marginal teeth per side. Small white flowers bloom in late spring. Flowers are followed in fall by an abundant and showy crop of bright red berry-like drupes which persist throughout the winter.

Sounds like a winner.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 12:36PM
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I know this tree is a hawthorn.

Here is a link that might be useful: Foster's Holly

    Bookmark   April 22, 2013 at 3:54PM
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