1 the fruits of winter. Berried branches come from various types of trees and shrubs, some of which are evergreen and some of which are deciduous. They also are members of different botanical families and genera. These branches are treasured for their fanciful fruits that lend accent to fall and winter designs.
2 around the world. Here are a variety of berried branches along with their genus and family classifications:
■ Winterberries (Ilex)
Aquifoliaceae (holly) family
■ Beautyberries (Callicarpa)
Verbenaceae (vervain/Verbena) family
■ Tallow berries (Sapium)
Euphorbiaceae (spurge) family
■ Pepperberries (Schinus)
Anacardiaceae (cashew) family
■ Chinaberries (Melia)
Meliaceae (mahogany) family
■ Snowberries (Symphoricarpos)
Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family
■ Rose hips (Rosa)
Rosaceae (rose) family
■ Tutsan (Hypericum)
Hypericaceae (St. John’s wort) family
3 not just red or white. Winterberries are available in reds, oranges or yellows; beautyberries are purple, lavender, magenta, mauve or white; tallow berries are white; pepperberries are rosy pink or red, or green when they are immature; chinaberries are pale orange, yellow, green or cream; snowberries are white, green or pink; and tutsan berries are brown, burgundy, red, coral or green.
4 how and when sold. Berried branches are packaged either by stem count or weight. There is seldom any foliage present during late fall and winter months except on pepperberries and tutsan. These branches are most available from September through December, except for pepperberries and tutsan, which are available year-round.
5 buying right. Avoid bunches that exhibit signs of bruising, mold, rot or berry drop. Make sure that your supplier handles berried branches with care; rough handling can bruise the berries and cause them to drop.
6 check the gas. Some genera of berried branches are sensitive to ethylene, so check with your supplier to ensure that the products you buy were treated with an anti-ethylene agent at the grower level or during transportation.
7 care and storage. Recut the stems, removing at least 1 inch; dip or place them into a hydration solution; and place them into properly prepared flower-food solution. While some berried branches might not benefit from the nutrient in flower-food solutions, most will benefit from the biocide, which will reduce bacteria levels in the storage containers. Store fresh berried branches in a cool (40 F to 55 F) environment until sale or use.
8 long or eternal life. When properly conditioned and stored, most berried branches will last for one to two weeks. Pepperberries and tallow berries can be air dried by hanging bunches upside down in a dark, dry, room-temperature environment.
9 fun facts. The milky sap of tallow trees is used in the manufacture of rubber, and the waxy substance covering the seeds (which forms the berries) is used in making candles and soap. Pepperberries have a peppery taste, but they can be somewhat toxic. The seeds of chinaberries have holes in them and were used for centuries to make rosaries. One species of Hypericum (H. perforatum) has medicinal value including as an antidepressant; this species is different from those grown commercially as cut flowers (H. androsaemum and H. inodorum).
10 on their own or mixed. In addition to being beautiful on their own, these berries are excellent fillers and textural additions to all kinds of mixed floral designs.
Some information provided by:
Botanica, R.J. Turner Jr. and Ernie Wasson; Hortus Third, Liberty Hyde Bailey and Ethel Zoe Bailey; Chain of Life Network, www.chainoflifenetwork.org; Holly Society of America, Inc., www.hollysocam.org; Virginia Cooperative Extension, www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/holly/430-470/430-470.html
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 27 years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry. You may contact him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (415) 239-3140.