poetry and prose about place

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)

with 2 comments

In contrast to October, November is a colorless month.  The exception – November’s red berries.

They punctuate the roads and ditches – Highbush-cranberry, Staghorn Sumach, American Mountain-ash, Hawthhorn and Rose.  Eventually the birds claim every one for food, but through most of early winter, the berries remain to cheer us.

Highbush Cranberry in November

Last November, my husband and I took a walk in the thicket of saplings above the lake.  As we came around the edge of a clump of alder, we were surprised to see a sturdy bush of Winterberry Holly.  It glowed with orange-red berries, set off by sprays of bronze-coloured leaves, not yet fallen.  We are used to seeing Winterberry along the lake, but in the grey and white thicket, the little bush was a gift.  We went there again this past Saturday, and there it was, glowing in the morning sun.

our bush of Winterberry Holly

Winterberry Holly (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)  is also known as Canadian Holly, Swamp Holly, Inkberry, Black Alder and Feverbush.    The shrub is usually found in wet areas, including wetlands, damp thickets, moist woods and along waterways.  The leaves turn a brassy purple-brown before they fall.  The fruit is a small, hard orange-red berry, remaining on the bush until January.       

In my poem, the words ‘lexicon’ and ‘exile’ are included as imperfect anagrams for Ilex (ilex)


Canadian Holly 

          (Ilex verticillata (L.) Gray)


drab November

            and lexicon


umber leaves

grey verticals

dull stubble



astound the wetland

            red ink on page

            and words explode

            from exile


fever flush and holly

above December snow

icicles vermillion



© Jane Tims  2011

Written by jane tims

November 7, 2011 at 7:27 am

2 Responses

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  1. Oh Jane…I’m simply enthralled with your blog and how you have married all these pieces of yourself into a portrait of poetry and prose. Your biologist background, your sense of the sublime, your exquisite sketches, the imagery that lies resident in your heart. You have brought autumn alive in a way that is truly how Jane sees the world.

    And, I love how you labeled the winterberry as ‘Our bush of Winterberry Holly’…because when we see something that strikes awe in our souls, we do lay claim to it, in some way, don’t we? (of course, maybe it is actually on your land…but I had a sense it was ‘yours’ through the magic of discovery.)


    Deborah Carr

    November 8, 2011 at 10:26 am

    • Hi Deborah. Thank you for your praise. If I hadn’t been inspired by your blog, I would never have begun. The bush is on our land, but the ‘our’ does have more to do with the discovery and the shared experience. Thanks, Jane


      jane tims

      November 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm

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