Winterberry – a different kind of holly

Winterberry (Ilex verticillata) is a native holly that, unlike other hollies, loses its leaves in early winter. In early November the leaves were still green.

A few weeks later the leaves are gone and birds are feasting on the abundant showy red berries.

winterberries (Ilex verticulata)

The day after Thanksgiving, snow on the berries created a bit of winter magic.

winterberries and snow (Ilex verticulata)

I have often enjoyed these bright red berries along roadsides this time of year. Now it’s a special treat to see them from my kitchen window, and it’s been fun watching the robins, cardinals, and mockingbirds having a feast.

Thank You

There are many things for which I am grateful, including the beauty and wonders of the natural world – and the readers of this blog.

Photographing and writing for the blog have increased my enjoyment of the backyard and nature. And I have enjoyed sharing with others.

I especially appreciate those of you who have subscribed and everyone who has responded in writing or in person. The feedback has meant a lot.

sweet gum leaves (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Sweetgum leaves (Liquidambar styraciflua)

One of my note cards features this photograph, taken at the Lexington Arboretum. As a token of my appreciation, I will gladly send this card to anyone who requests it by December 1, 2010.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Several years ago my mother told me she had planted a new shrub on the farm where I grew up in Missouri. She called it a wahoo, and said she wished I could see it in October. Wahoo? I assumed that must be a local Ozark name. When I finally saw it in the fall, I understood why she enjoyed it so much.

wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus)

I saw the shrub again while hiking in Kentucky. After some research I found it was indeed a wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) and that it is native to both Missouri and Kentucky. This one in the backyard is an offspring of mother’s plant.

Throughout the summer it is an attractive tree-like shrub that calls no attention to itself. Then in autumn the leaves turn yellow and begin to drop, and the pods turn a bright pink and begin to stand out.

wahoo (Euonymus atropurpureus) fruit pods

As the pods age, they open and bright red seeds appear. It’s another of nature’s wonders and I look forward to the show each autumn.

Aromatic Aster

Here’s a view of the back of the garden. The aromatic asters (Aster oblongifolius) in the foreground are providing the last flowers of the season.

aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)

They form a low hedge and I enjoy the textured foliage through the summer. I especially enjoy when they bloom in September and October.

At close range the blossoms are dainty and delicate.

aromatic aster (Aster oblongifolius)

However, the plants have been hardy. We’ve had very little rain for three months and have already had frost. Nevertheless, the plants continue to bloom and add a nice touch of color.

Common checkered-skipper

I suspect this is my last butterfly image for 2010, but I’d be glad to be wrong.

I’ve come to appreciate the diminutive skippers. I especially enjoy them in late summer when the other butterflies begin to dwindle. This common checkered-skipper (Pyrgus communis) is one of the easiest to identify.

common-checkered skipper (Pyrgus communis)

This particular one has brown tones, but they are often checkered black and white. It is about 1/2 inch wide and is feeding on New England Aster (Aster novae-angliae).

According to Jim Brock and Kenn Kaufman, authors of Butterflies of North America, this is “the most common and widespread skipper in North America.” I’m surprised that I’m just now seeing it and making its acquaintance.