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Common winterberry (Ilex verticillata)

What's in Bloom: October

Fall is finally upon us at the ArBOOretum! Complementing the creative and colorful scarecrows along the garden paths are spectacular hues from the plants in our collection. From bright purple berries and vibrant pink flowers to fiery fall color, there is lots to see and explore.

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Located along the stream and by the Keyhole Fountain, this stunning bloom makes a fantastic addition to the gardens, with showy clusters of red blooms still blooming so late into the season. Arranged along an upright raceme, the small flowers are distinct with two upper and three lower petals. Because the flowers are tubular, cardinal flower is often pollinated by hummingbirds who can reach the nectar with their long bills.

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Tucked off the main path within our native azalea collection, across from the Keyhole Fountain are several of these shrubs now flaunting their fabulous purple fruit. Native to the southern United States, American beautyberry produces small, inconspicuous pink and white flowers in the spring that later develop into showy fruit in the fall and can hang on to the plant even during the winter. Clustered at each leaf axil, these fruits are an important food source for many birds—even we can eat them, though they don’t have a very strong flavor.

Common winterberry
Ilex verticillata

Located all around the Arboretum, these native shrubs and their cultivated varieties are covered in bright red fruit, adding pockets of color throughout the gardens. Native to eastern North America, these shrubs are often found along swampy, wet areas near streams or ponds. In our gardens, you’ll find both the straight species and many cultivated varieties, chosen for their size, berry color, bloom time, etc.

J.L. Pennock white enkianthus
Enkianthus perulatus ‘J.L. Pennock’

This enormous shrub located in the Hill and Water Garden is now boasting a fiery red color this month. A member of the heath family Ericaceae, enkianthus shrubs have small urn-shaped flowers that bloom in the spring and are known for their spectacular fall color. Named after “Mr. Horticulture” John Liddon Pennock, this particular variety was cultivated for its bright red fall foliage, said to match the red sweater he was known for wearing.

Stewartia monodelpha
Stewartia pseudocamellia
Stewartia rostrata

As trees begin to lose their leaves, our stewartias get to take center stage with their intricate, colorful bark and beautiful seed pods. All of these stewartia species can be found in Bark Park, a garden area curated to demonstrate spectacular tree bark. Members of the tea family, Theaceae, stewartias have a characteristic smooth yet flaky bark, exposing the many layers of colors underneath its outer layer. Our Stewartia rostrata, commonly known as beaked stewartia, gets its name from the beak-like tip of the seed pod which tapers off to a point.

Bottlebrush buckeye
Aesculus parviflora

One of the first signs of fall, the leaves of these shade-loving native shrubs are turning a beautiful golden yellow this time of year. In the Widener Woods, masses of these autumnal bottlebrush buckeye contrast with all the other trees that have not yet changed color and complement those that have. The peak of fall color will soon be upon us!

Nora Wildberg received her bachelor’s degree in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University in 2021, focusing her studies on museology. Having previously worked with an ancient coin collection, she now works directly with the Morris Arboretum’s living collection assisting in the preservation and record-keeping of our woody plants. In recent years, she developed a passion for plants and nature, and in her free time, she enjoys birdwatching, painting, hiking, and looking at art.