WinterberryBotanical name: Ilex verticillataPronunciation...


December 21, 1991|By Amalie Adler Ascher


Botanical name: Ilex verticillata

Pronunciation: EYE-lex

Family: Aquifoliaceae (Holly)

Origin: Eastern North America

Class: Shrub

Display period: Late summer through winter

Height: 6 to 7 feet

Environment: Full sun or part shade

Normally you think of holly -- or ilex -- as evergreen. A few species, however, are deciduous. Ilex verticillata, for example, is bare of foliage in wintertime. The absence of leaves, though, doesn't necessarily detract from the plant, for without foliage the beautiful bright red fruit is exposed to full view.

A new variety of I. verticillata, introduced this year by Foxborough Nursery of Street, bears even more lustrous berries. Arranged in tight clusters, they cover the branches straight down to the tips. Named Maryland Beauty, the plant is also richer for its deeper green leaves.

At Foxborough, says President W. David Thompson, the berries stay on the shrub until March. On regular I. verticillata, he adds, the berries would have long since been eaten by birds. For some reason, though, the fruit on the new breed of winterberry don't appeal to them.

Maryland Beauty first came to attention in 1932. But for some unknown reason, Mr. Thompson says, no one got around to registering it until 1970 when C. J. Jenkins and Sons of Mitchellville recorded it. The firm also gave the plant its name. Jenkins and Sons had been growing the holly to supply cut branches to florists.

When Mr. Thompson encountered the variety and noticed its wonderful compact form and fullness, he realized its landscape value at once. He began production and introduced Maryland Beauty last February. (Foxborough is the exclusive wholesale source for the plant; it sells retail to the public by mail order only. For information on purchasing plants, call (410) 879-4995.)

Maryland Beauty is "excellent" for mass plantings, Mr. Thompson says. It prefers moist fertile soil but also does well in wet, chalky soil. Fertilizing with nitrogen induces flushes of growth. As for insect and disease problems, the shrub is pretty much trouble-free.

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