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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Saturday - November 17, 2012

From: Saint Ignace, MI
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Availability of Michigan Holly berries in Northern Michigan
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I live in Northern Michigan, and am new in the wreath making business. Last year I found Michigan Holly berries and used them for my wreaths. They have the most beautiful berries I have ever seen, and last all winter. They were very plentiful last year, however, I am having a terrible time finding them this year. I have gone back to the places that I found them last year and there is nothing. Could you tell me when they usually rippen and if the climate has to be just right before they do. Your help is greatly appreciated!!!Thank you, Thank you,

ANSWER:

Michigan Holly Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry) is a beautiful plant during the fall and winter, and as you can see from this distribution map, it is quite prevalent throughout the state. You say you have used it before, but I want to make sure you are aware of this caveat found on its NPIN profile page: 

Warning: All Ilex species may be somewhat toxic if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a person’s age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plant’s different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.

Bloom time is from April to July, and the berries persist through fall into winter. The woods should be resplendent with them  about now. When you say looked for them and foud nothing, does this mean no Holly berries or no Holly plants?  For information about this problem closer to home, you might try this link to the Michigan Botanical Society, which is the Native Plant Society of Michigan.

For information about wreath making check out this article in our Step by Step Guide .

There is a very well illustrated article on native holly plants in the Winter 2012 issue of Wildflower, The Magazine of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center ; vol. 29, no 3. Members of the Wildflower Center receive a subscrition to the magazine as a benefit of membership.

 

From the Image Gallery


Common winterberry
Ilex verticillata

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