A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Photinia villosa var. laevis (Christmas Berry variety)

Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.

One of our finest trees for fall foliage is certainly not the largest. Located in the area of the garden just to the north of the visitors’ parking lot is the small, but highly colorful, Christmas berry tree (Photinia villosa var. laevis). It is on the right in the shot below, which was taken on the path east of the Flower Garden.

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It is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), and related to such flowering trees as the apple, pear and hawthorn, and it puts on a similar show of five-petaled, white blossoms in spring.

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The small, mid-green leaves of summer slowly turn into a fiery orange by late autumn and they contrast strongly with the tiny, red berries which are just beginning to ripen. These berries remain on the tree into winter, long after the foliage has dropped, and give the tree its common name of Christmas berry.

close-up

Native to East Asia, it is not often seen in parks or gardens. Our specimen is well worth a visit this week.

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