A Flock of Fall Fruits

There are an abundance of berries on shrubs and trees in my gardens this fall.  I choose to believe it’s because they are happy, loved and established rather than some exhibition of desperation, a last-ditch effort to reproduce, given the exceptional drought they’ve lived through this past year or so.

I didn’t expect much of a berry show this year because of the drought, so I’m glad that I was wrong.

My Possumhaw Holly (Ilex decidua) has been an inveterate berry producer for some years now.

It’s about eleven years old and usually by  November, it showcases its lovely, lush red berries.

The birds (mockingbirds, bluejays and cedar wax-wings) love this berry and are very generous with me:  they don’t eat these fruits to extinction until early spring so I get to enjoy the beauty of the berries throughout winter. Interestingly,  many of the berries that developed last fall stayed on the tree well into this past summer, a surprise to me given the limitations of wildlife food available this year.

My neighbor has the related Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria), just over the fence which separates our property.

I like these two small, native trees planted so closely together.

The Yaupon remains evergreen during winter and the Possumhaw is deciduous after our first hard freeze.  The berries will remain on both trees until birds and squirrels devour them.  The Possumhaw has slightly larger and darker red berries,

while the Yaupon’s fruits are smaller, scarlet red and shiny.

Both trees are excellent landscape and wildlife plants for Central Texas.

The non-native, but well-adapted Dwarf Burford Holly (Ilex cornuta ‘Dwarf Burford’ ), is also exhibiting a bumper crop of berries this year.

Typically, these berries stay on the shrubs until the cedar wax-wings swoop, en masse, and eat them all, usually in one afternoon, sometime in late February or March.  These shrubs are very slow-growing.  I planted them in 1990 and it took  many years for them to reach their mature size.  They’ve always been good berry producers though.

Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis) are still producing their little, brilliant red fruits this year as well.

I’m guessing that the recent rains we’ve had contributed to the slightly longer bloom ‘n berrying time for this plant.

The Texas native pepper, Chile Pequin (Capsicum annuum), also is a reliable fruit producer, although this year (at least in my garden), the fruits (peppers) developed a little later than usual.

Typically, the peppers develop in the summer months, turning red by late August/September.  Aside from the later ripening time, there aren’t as many peppers on my Chile Pequin plants this year as in others.  The mockingbirds have visited these plants recently, so it’ll be interesting to observe whether the fruits remain throughout winter.  Usually they do, that is until a very hard freeze.

Conversely, some of the other fruit producers  have had their fruits gobbled up (seemingly) about three seconds after ripening.  I haven’t seen a Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreas) fruit or a Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra) fruit since earlier in October.  I did however, see a mockingbird flitting about those plants, often with a fruit wedged firmly in his beak.  I wonder if there’s a connection??

What berries to you and your wildlife enjoy?