Plant of the Week: Winterberry

Photo by Andrew Frasz

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 one of our gardeners' current favorites with you.

Ilex verticillata, or winterberry, is a small holly native to the eastern United States and southern Canada. Growing to a height of six feet and a spread of eight feet, this species is typically found along poorly drained sites.

Unlike most hollies, Ilex verticillata is deciduous and drops its leaves in the fall. This species is also dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female plants. In order for females to bear fruit, there must be at least one male tree nearby to ensure pollination. It is recommended to have one male for every six female plants.

There are many cultivars of winterberry. On the High Line, there is 'Jim Dandy' (male) and 'Red Sprite' (female). These cultivars are smaller and more compact then the straight species, allowing them to fit easier into most garden settings.

Winterberry is prized for its winter interest, as it bears bright red berries that persist until spring. The berries provide a much needed food source to over forty bird species.

Ilex verticillata has no serious insect or disease problems.


You can see Ilex verticillata in the Chelsea Thicket from West 20th Street to West 22nd Street.

Download our February bloom list.

Our horticultural team counts on members and friends like you to help keep the High Line beautiful and thriving. Join our community of supporters who play an essential role in the High Line's most important gardening projectsbecome a member of Friends of the High Line today!

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