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Sparkelberry old time shrub -?ilex verticulatum ?/

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

I have a shrub(approx 10 yrs old), obtained from a very old southern garden made to resemble some of the best. I purchased a "it labeled as Sparkleberry, also labled 'ilex verticulatum (that's what it looks like!, but writing is faint) One must have both the male and female plant for fruiting,. My female is about 6'x4' now with profuse berries forming. Her male sits beside her, ever faithful, somewhat smaller,but both look verry healthy. I do have young plants around each that I would be willing to part with. I am dissabled, so perhaps someone near my area might like to aquire these special winter bird food plants.
If anyone has any additional info on them, I would love to hear.
I also purchased a winte"rberry, that has young and another shrub that has gerogerus red berries that open in groups of 4...dont know the name, but when I can get pics of course that will help.
I have never seen such a prolific berrying on the sparkleberrry as this year....I hoe that it is not a sign of a hard winter to come.

Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)


I have a couple of vaccinium arboretum that are called huckleberry, sparkleberry, or farkleberry... Would this be the same tree? Mine bloomed but did not fruit.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

I Googled it...and yes it is indeed Sparkleberry, ilex vert... (whatever I wrote B4), a Winterberry that is polinated by "Southern gentleman" and is sought after by numerous songbirds...anyway, now I will make a permanent metal name tag, and am very glad to own 1, in fact I have a # of female plants, so will transplant them...wonder how close they have to be to that male plant to be pollinated?

Marlton, NJ

I think its 20 feet but maybe it would be best to check in the Shrubs and Tree forum.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

no it is 5 - 9'...deffinately not 20'! , deciduous holly,highly prixed, highly sought after, highly decorative....I and the birds absolutely love mine. In fact now that I have been reading about then I know that I have 3 kinds.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)


I am confident that you are growing a male and female clone of Ilex verticillata (Winterberry Holly or Black Alder are a couple common names) and those are 'Southern Gentleman' and probably 'Winter Red'. Those are two classic selections that "marry" well because they bloom together - maximizing pollination and fruit set.

I am glad you have found these plants for your garden, and that they are performing well for you. They are often overlooked as an asset for winter ornament (and wildlife support in late winter and spring). There are quite a few more named varieties of this species; take a look at this link to PlantFiles:

For some addtional general info to eveyone:

Growing out seedlings is also perfectly serviceable to increase numbers and/or naturalize the plant. You will have to wait several seasons for them to get up to reproducing age, and then determine whether you have male or female plants. Winterberries have male and female flowers on separate plants. There must be overlap in bloom time of the male and female plants in order to have pollination, and thus gain fruiting on the female plants. Pollinating distance? How lazy are your bugs? I thinnk if the male and female plants are within a 100' or so of each other, you should be fine. The insects fly around, and they certainly are "smarter" than us in being able to find what they are foraging for. Closer is always better, of course. I'd be most concerned about providing the best growing conditions for this stellar shrub.

Gardeners can also divide off colonizing stems of winterberry, since it can produce additional shoots in the vicinity of the parent if the plant is quite content with its growing situation. You can often find winterberries creating these shoots in container-grown nursery plants, especially if they've been in their pot a season or two too long.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

My approx. 11 yr old male and female are planted about 6' apart. there are many young (1'-3') plants around the female and a couple around the male.
ViburnumValley - you seem so knowledgable. How do I tell male from female plant? I would like to pot up some of the younger plants, and hopefully share them...but know I must provide a "couple" (ideally 1 male w/ 2 female plants). One article that I read said that an ideal setting is with a male surounded by 3-6 females...I would like to do this in the rear of a 1acr field to the side of my house.
people say "what do you mean, "a deciduous holly?"---Well, they are spectacular when covered with brilliant red berries and no leaves, this must be where the name "Sparkleberry "came from---they sure do "sparkle" in the winter!
I highly recommend this to anyone desiring a naturalized garden, wildlife habitat and wanting songbirds around.--it seems to "call " to them!

Bella Vista, AR(Zone 6b)

The common name threw me off. Plant files shows the sparkleberry as vaccinium arboretum. That is what I thought you were talking about.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

Quoting: ideal setting is with a male surounded by 3-6 females...

I don't think I would argue with that (on many levels). Note that the male plant you have is named 'Southern Gentleman'. Another "pairing" is 'Rhett Butler' touted as the best mate for 'Scarlett O'Hara'. Fancy that!

You can tell male plants from female plants most surely when they are blooming. Look at some of the PlantFiles images where flowers are illustrated. They are not very big flowers, but the differences are obvious. Here are some links to speed you along, but I recommend anyone interested should peruse these entries to learn more about this exciting group of plants.

Male flower:

Female flower:

I don't know any way to tell a male plant from a female plant when not blooming, except if the plant is bearing fruit. Then, it is a female plant. One without fruit is not necessarily male, though - it may not have flowered that year or not been pollinated.

I grow a lot of hollies here at the Valley, among them Ilex opaca, Ilex decidua, and Ilex verticillata. If you've looked at any of the PlantFiles entries, I think you might notice that I don't keep my winterberry light under a bushel basket. I have also been fortunate to have known several stellar senior citizens of all things holly (the late Bob Simpson and the late Theodore Klein among them) and I carry their inspiration and passion forward.

This has been a good year for bloom and pollination on most of the selections that I'm trialing and growing. I hope to post images of them as the fruit ripens and the display matures in the fall/winter. Show us some pictures of yours when you are able.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

ViburnumV....Is there a Sparkleberry, or rather, Winterberry that has lovely blue fruit?
I have somthing that has just that. Now they are really lookers, and apparently taisty too, as that shrub is getting cleared just about as fast as the berries mature to the lovely navyish blue color.!!
Camera is acting up....otherwise I would have posted a pic. I will as soon as I can!

Raleigh, NC

Can all of you who are growing 'Sparkleberry' or others give me an idea of the conditions where it is planted? I've got a female 'Sparkleberry' and several other yellow berry varieties, plus their companion male varieties, and mine are surviving, but not thriving. I'm wondering if my conditions are too dry (yard slopes quite a bit....). Wondering what will make them a bit happier....

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Mine are beneath a pin oak , beside a gravel drive on the SW side of the yard. The grade is slightly sloped, just such that they don't stand in water and lighting is probably not optimum as they are in shade except late afternoon ...and , of course in Winter it gets good light....I think this is a fair description of the area that they came from also, as it was an old (very) estate near Statesville and quite "woodland".
This is the 1st year that I have observed heavy berrying, and I too thought that they were "just surviving". Perhaps they are slow growers and take a few years to mature and fruit nicely.

Raleigh, NC

Well that's good to hear---mine are actually in quite similar conditions to yours (sloped, mostly shade except late afternoon, near larger trees that suck moisture etc). I worried that they might need more woodland conditions i.e. more moisture etc. Guess I'll give them more time. Thanks!

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)


Take a look and see if your shrub with the blue fruit has opposite foliage. It sounds like you have Arrowwood (Viburnum dentatum), which would have ripening fruit now (all of mine are) and that birds will absolutely wear out.

Sorry, no Winterberry selection will have blue fruit. There are a few evergreen hollies (Ilex glabra and Ilex crenata come to mind) with fruit that mature near black, but Winterberry is going to be red, orangish, or yellowish in fruit color.


More moisture when it is driest - that will give your plants a boost. Woodland conditions might provide better soils, but probably more shade which means flowering/fruiting will eventually be reduced. The sunnier and moister sites make winterberries happiest.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

ViburnumV - Yes! You are spot on! Indeed, the leaves are opposite. Is it unusual enough (blue fruit) that the type was pretty obvious to you , or are you an expert on Viburnums ( Duh...perhaps your name gives a clue to that answer) I don't recall ever seeing a yellow berry (other than pics). You must have quite a # of berrying shrubs and probably the best Birdie Diner in town! Thanks for the ID assistance.
It is absolutely too cool to come here and have such easy access to so many with such a wealth of experience and expertise!! Thanks !!

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b) can't have too many viburnums.

There are several very good Winterberry selections with yellow to yellow-orange fruit. Among these are 'Winter Gold', 'Goldfinch', and 'Aurantiaca'. There are probably more that I haven't run into yet.

You can also track down some yellow-fruited viburnums; these include Viburnum dilatatum 'Michael Dodge', 'Vernon Morris', and Viburnum sargentii 'Flavum'. Of course, others will list more that I'm not remembering right now.

Having these other flavors just spices up the fall garden and winter landscape.

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a)

Oh my I want more!......I guess my limited $ resources are a good thing though since it stops me right at the "want" point! lol

Raleigh, NC

I guess it would make you feel bad, BirdieBlue, to tell you that I got several gold varieties for free at the local Habitat for Humanity reuse store, huh? They often receive landscape plants at the end of the season and, as you probably realize, the Ilex sp. don't really look like much when not berrying. They couldn't get them to sell, so put them out for free. Most of them looked pretty bad (they hadn't watered them either), but I took the four best, of which three have lived and done quite nicely. They were large, too--about 5 feet tall! That was my lucky day!

Winston Salem, NC(Zone 7a), actually, nothing has the power to "make" me "feel bad" or good either , for that matter..........but me.....I am , however very happy tht you got such a wonderful blessssing from that store. I will indeed call and check to see if the one near me gets any of the leftover stock from nurseries. and , thankyou for the idea. Inever woud have thought of lookint there as a plantso

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