A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Plant of the Week: Idesia polycarpa (Idesia)

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

One of the glories of a visit to Wave Hill in winter is the sight of our idesia trees, loaded with their orange-red berries.close-up

Native to China and southern Japan, the idesia (Idesia polycarpa) is a medium-sized tree. In summer, when both the foliage and developing berries are green, it is not especially noticeable. But once the berries have ripened and the leaves have dropped, the tree is unmissable.

It is a dioecious species, meaning that individual trees are either male or female and both are necessary in order for there to be berries—pollen from a male tree must be available to fertilize the flowers of the female. Because of this, multiple trees must be planted together, and this explains why it is seldom seen outside large estates and botanic gardens: few private yards have room for a grove of idesia!

Our trees are located just to the south of Wave Hill House, shown here first, and in the Shade Border, close to the Aquatic Garden.setting-WHHsetting-Aquaticsetting-Aquatic-2

One thought on “Plant of the Week: Idesia polycarpa (Idesia)

  1. Lucky for us gardeners, the birds native to NY do not readily eat these berries, so we can enjoy their red color all winter. Since the purpose of red berries is to attract birds, I am wondering if there are birds in the countries where this is native ( China, Japan) that do enjoy the berries? If you ever see birds eating the berries at the end of the season, when they have depleted more desirable food sources, please let us know; that would be fascinating.

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