Plant of the Week: Red Sprite Winterberry

Red Sprite winterberry produces vibrant red berries during the winter months of the year, adding color to the High Line’s winter landscape.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew up between rail tracks after the trains stopped running in the 1980s. Today, the High Line includes more than 300 species of perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees — each chosen for their hardiness, adaptability, diversity, and seasonal variation in color and texture. Some of the species that originally grew on the High Line’s rail bed are reflected in the park landscape today.

This week we share with you one of our gardeners’ current favorites.

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If you stop by the High Line during the colder months of the year, there’s no way you can miss Red Sprite winterberry, Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite.’ The vibrant red berries of Red Sprite winterberry are a colorful contrast with the subdued tones of dried grasses that characterize the High Line’s winter landscape.

In addition to being a beautiful ornamental shrub, winterberry’s prolific fruit is a great source of food for native and migrating birds. High Line Staff have even observed mockingbirds guarding the bushes from other winged competitors so they can keep the coveted food source to themselves.

Behind the scenes, interesting biology is at work with Red Sprite winterberry. Unlike most plants, many hollies are dioecious, meaning each individual plant is sexually distinct and will only create male or female flowers. Ilex verticillata 'Red Sprite’ plants are all female and would not produce their characteristic red fruits without first being pollinated by a male counterpart. To ensure bountiful fruiting, High Line Gardeners have planted Ilex verticillata 'Jim Dandy’ in close proximity and natural wind pollination does the rest.

WHERE TO SEE THIS PLANT
On the High Line between Gansevoort and West 14th Streets, between West 20th and West 23rd Streets.

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