Fabulous fall fruits

Highbush cranberries.jpg

Through the Adirondack summer, flowering trees and shrubs busy themselves producing what we may call seeds, nuts, or berries but which in the eyes of botanists are all "fruits." Flowering plants also take advantage of sunshine, warm temperatures, carbon dioxide, soil nutrients, and rain to manufacture the leaves and flowers that will open for business the following spring. It's a busy time for green things. Judging by this year's bumper crop of fruits, it was a very good year.

The shrub known as cranberry viburnum, or highbush cranberry, produced huge numbers of lucious fruit (seen in the photo above) in our part of the Adirondacks this year. Most of us don't eat these fruits because, while not known to be poisonous, they're wickedly tart. But one thing they are, without question, is gorgeous. The reds of the ripe berries, which occur in dangling clusters, are brilliant and can spotted at a great distance. This no doubt helps birds find them. Later, the hard indigestible seeds, one per berry (technically they're drupes), are distributed in droppings far and wide. It's a great relationship. The plants provide the birds with carbohydrate-rich food, and the birds supply seed distribution services and fertilizer.

One fruit that is poisonous, yet so beautiful we can easily forgive its toxicity, is the winterberry. This is the life's work of the most common species of native holly growing in the northern Adirondacks and much of the East. The fruits are not only poisonous to people but birds don't like eating them, either, or at least not until weeks or months have passed. Hence "winterberry"---a fruit that you may still find in the woods in winter, when all or nearly all the other fruits of autumn are plucked and gone.

I have never seen as many winterberries as I have this season. It's a treat to stroll in, or near, damp places where the holly thrives and see the daubs of scarlet it leaves on the landscape.

Fall scene with winterberries.jpg