Winterberry is an erect moderate sized shrub, growing to heights of 5 to 15 feet tall. The smooth bark of winterberry is gray to blackish, with knobby lenticels The dense branches of this shrub grow in a zigzag pattern with an upright spreading crown. The twigs are slender, with gray to gray-brown color and small buds.
The simple, smooth, obovate to oblong-ovate foliage is sharply double toothed, with medium fine texture. The deciduous leaves are arranged alternately along the stems. Each leaf is 1 1/2 to 4 inches long, with dark green summer color turning yellow in fall, then drop off by mid-October.
Small, inconspicuous, axillary, greenish to yellowish-white flowers bloom from April to July, after leaves have emerged. Like most others in the holly genus, winterberry is dioecious. Three years after planting, pistillate flowers begin to emerge in small clusters plants and staminate flowers develop on male plants with up to twelve flowers in a cluster; only now can plant gender be determined. Scarlet red to orange, globular fruit mature by late summer, often remaining on the plant into mid-winter. The berry-like fruit is about 1/4 inch in diameter, occurring singlely or in pairs, each containing 3 to 5 small nutlets. There are an average of 92,000 seeds per pound.
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