Symphoricarpos Orbiculatus Descriptive Essay


Growing your own plants from seed is the most economical way to add natives to your home. Before you get started, one of the most important things to know about the seeds of wild plants is that many have built-in dormancy mechanisms that prevent the seed from germinating. In nature, this prevents a population of plants from germinating all at once, before killing frosts, or in times of drought. To propagate native plants, a gardener must break this dormancy before seed will grow.

Each species is different, so be sure to check the GERMINATION CODE listed on the website, in the catalog, or on your seed packet. Then, follow the GERMINATION INSTRUCTIONS prior to planting. Some dormancy can be broken in a few minutes, but some species take months or even years.

Seed dormancy can be broken artificially by prolonged refrigeration of damp seed in the process of cold/moist STRATIFICATION. A less complicated approach is to let nature handle the stratifying through a dormant seeding, sowing seeds on the surface of a weed-free site in late fall or winter. Tucked safely beneath the snow, seeds will be conditioned by weathering to make germination possible in subsequent growing seasons.

To learn more, download: Seed Starting Basics.

Bare Roots:

We dig bare-root plants from our outdoor beds and ship them April-May and October. We are among the few still employing this production method, which is labor intensive but plant-friendly. They arrive to you dormant, with little to no top-growth (bare-root), packed in peat moss. They should be planted as soon as possible. Unlike greenhouse-grown plants, bare-root plants can be planted during cold weather or anytime the soil is not frozen. A root photo is included with each species to illustrate the optimal depth and orientation. Planting instructions/care are also included with each order.

Download: Installing Your Bare-Root Plants

Potted Plants:

Trays (38 plants) leave our Midwest greenhouse based on species readiness (well-rooted for transit) and based on order date; shipping begins early-May and goes into June. Each of the 38 plant cells are 2” wide at top x 5” deep; ideal for deep-rooted natives. Full-color tags and planting instructions/care are included with each order.

Download:Tips on Planting and Care of Potted Plants

Description: This branching shrub is 2-4' tall. The trunk and lower branches are woody and brown; they are covered with strips of loose shaggy bark. The middle to upper branches are reddish purple to brown and variably hairy. The blades of the opposite leaves are up to 2" long and 1¼" across; they are oval-ovate and smooth along their margins. The upper surface of each leaf blade is medium green and hairless to slightly pubescent, while the lower surface is whitish green and slightly pubescent to very pubescent. Each leaf has a short petiole up to ¼" long. Leaf venation is pinnate.

At the axils of some leaves, there develops dense clusters of greenish yellow flowers that are sessile, or nearly so. Each flower is about ¼" long, consisting of a short tubular corolla with 5 lobes, a short green calyx with 5 teeth, and an inferior ovary that is pale green and globoid-ovoid in shape. Inside the corolla, there are 5 stamens surrounding a hairy style. The blooming period occurs during the late spring or summer. Each flower is replaced by a berry containing 2 seeds. The mature berries are about ¼" long, reddish purple, and ovoid-globoid in shape; the texture of their flesh is somewhat dry. The seeds are oblongoid and flattened. The root system consists of a woody branching taproot.

Cultivation: Coralberry adapts to partial sun, moist to dry conditions, and a loamy or rocky soil.

Range & Habitat: The native Coralberry is occasional to locally common in the southern half of Illinois, becoming less common or absent in the northern half of the state (see Distribution Map). Habitats include thin rocky woodlands, woodland openings, woodland borders, areas along woodland paths, powerline clearances in wooded areas, thickets, and limestone glades. Sometimes this shrub is grown as an ornamental plant in gardens, from which it occasionally escapes. Disturbance in wooded areas is beneficial if it reduces excessive shade from overhead trees.

Faunal Associations: The flowers attract bees, wasps, and flies primarily. These insects suck nectar from the flowers, although some of the bees also collect pollen. The caterpillars of the moths Hemaris diffinis (Snowberry Clearwing), Hemaris thysbe (Hummingbird Clearwing), and Hesperumia sulphuraria (Sulfur Moth) feed on the foliage of Coralberry and other Symphoricarpos spp. The aphid Apathargelia symphoricarpi and the thrips Thrips winnemanae suck juices from the undersides of the leaves. The berries persist into the fall and winter and are eaten primarily by Robins (Turdus migratorius); the buds and berries are also eaten by the Bobwhite. Coralberry is a favorite food plant of the White-Tailed Deer and it is often heavily browsed. Because of its dense branching habit and abundant leaves, this shrub provides good cover for wildlife.

Photographic Location: A powerline clearance at Busey Woods in Urbana, Illinois.

Comments: Coralberry is a rather small sprawling shrub with attractive foliage and berries. It is an easy shrub to identify in natural areas, particularly during the fall, because of the purplish red berries. Other Symphoricarpos spp. (Snowberry, Wolfberry) in Illinois have white or greenish white berries. A related group of plants, Lonicera spp. (Honeysuckles), are either vines or upright shrubs. Like Coralberry, Honeysuckles often produce berries in clusters near the leaves, but their berries are usually bright red and more juicy. Generally, the corollas of Honeysuckle flowers are larger in size than those of Coralberry, and they have long slender lobes. All of these plants produce pairs of opposite leaves on woody stems; the margins of their leaves are smooth or slightly wavy, but they never have teeth, unlike the leaves of many other shrubs. Another common name of Symphoricarpos orbiculatus is Buckbrush, which refers to the attractiveness of this shrub to deer as a food plant.

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