Guest Author - Connie Krochmal
Several species of the native chokecherries (Aronia spp.) ripen in the fall. In the U.S., there happens to be at least three species of these native shrubs. The fruits can be red, purple, or black. They’re about ¼ inch across, and are borne in bunches. The one seen most often in landscapes is the black chokecherry (Aronia melanocarpa). Chokecherries are hardy to zone four or five. The black chokecherry is probably the best choice if you want to grow these for their berries. This one is only about three feet tall.
Beautyberries are among the most unusual fruits for floral designs. It is hard to imagine finding fruits that are more beautiful than this. They are the most luminescent lilac or purple I have ever seen. These profusely fruiting plants are small shrubs. The fruits appear in rounded clusters from the leaf axils, and are particularly long lasting. This is sometimes called French mulberry though it is neither French nor a mulberry. Purple beauty is another of its common names, which definitely describes the fruit clusters. Hardy to zone five or six, these shrubs can be anywhere from one to four feet in height.
There are several species of the beautyberry available. These include Bodinier beautyberry (Callicarpa bodineri), and Japanese beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica) as well as the native beautyberry. This native is found over much of the East as far west as Texas and Oklahoma.
American bittersweet (Celastrus scandens) is one of the most delightful fruiting plants of fall. This fast growing, sturdy vine is native throughout much of the East. It is by no means as common as it once was. That is largely due to being crowded out by the Oriental bittersweet. This invasive introduction was originally planted as a landscape plant. The Oriental then escaped and became naturalized in various areas of the country.
Like most vines, the American bittersweet can smother trees and shrubs. So provide it with a fence or other means of support. During the fall, it is easily recognized by its red and yellow fruits. These ripen in clusters at the ends of the shoots. Only the female plants will bear fruits. I gather these before frost, and clip off the foliage. The stems can be tied in bundles, and hung in a shady place to dry.
To complicate matters even more, stems of the Oriental bittersweet are often sold during the fall. It is commonly seen in farmers’ markets and similar outlets here in western North Carolina. Because this plant is so invasive, I would never buy these stems. You could easily drop some of the berries, and later find the seeds have germinated. Here in North Carolina the state’s agriculture department proposed a ban on the sale of Oriental bittersweet last year. However, there was too much protest from the vendors that made money from the sales. So people can still go and buy it without realizing its true invasive nature.
There are so many viburnums with attractive fruits that it really isn’t possible to even mention all the different kinds.
Linden viburnum (Viburnum dilatatum) has rounded clusters of small, glossy red fruits. These are very long-lasting.
Leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum rhytidophyllum) has attractive bunches of terminal fruits. Within the same bunch, you will see berries in different stages of ripening, including red and black ones. These will last for several months.
Among all the red, purple, and black berries, don’t be surprised to see some white-colored ones. Some of the most attractive white-fruited ones are the snowberry. You can tell by the name alone that these are going to be a very attractive white that just adds an unusual color to floral designs. The Latin name for these plants is Symphoricarpos, which means ‘tightly clustered fruits.’ This describes the attractive fruit bunches. The white-fruiting ones are known as snowberries, while the red ones are usually called Indian currant. In addition to these, there are also ones with pink and purple fruits.
There is any number of native species of snowberries. These include the mountain snowberry, and the eastern snowberry.