The Strawberry Bush

IMG 3374 The Strawberry Bush

This hot pink and orange shocker is a North American native shrub grazed by Bluebirds, Mockingbirds, Deer, Wood Thrush, and Wild Turkey.  It is so startlingly different from what the first Europeans to New England were familiar with, that it was purposely cultivated by colonists for shipment back to their countries of origin.  The colonists nicknamed the shrub “Hearts-a-Bursting,” and naturalists claim that the Native Americans at the time used it’s roots to make a homeopathic tea that treated things like stomach and urinary problems, and a prolapsed uterus.

Safety and Usage:

The Strawberry Bush’s berries and leaves are toxic to humans and domesticated animals, and while I can’t vouch for the safety of any edible usage like tea, I can suggest that it makes a beautiful addition to woodland borders, drainage gardens, and wildlife feeding stations.  This North American native is in the Euonymous family, and provides beautiful fall fruit and winter food for a large variety of songbirds, as well as bright fall foliage color. Every fall this bush makes an eye catching statement with it’s one of a kind seed displays.

Strawberry Bushes are hard to find in their native habitat near the Chesapeake Bay and throughout The East Coast, and they are still rare to find in garden centers.  I recommend looking online for Strawberry Bushes on the sites of native garden wholesalers and plant breeders. Often times these are the folks who provide the native plants to the state and county development personnel who are required to re-build a habitat after construction projects, and these groups have large numbers of the more rare plants.

Planting Guide:

Plant Strawberry Bushes in shady and moist areas.  These shrubs do well near streams, or areas that tend to hold on to water. Protect newly installed plants with metal mesh fencing, chicken wire, or netting, to protect them from deer for their first year or two. Deer have a special fondness for the winter stems of the strawberry bush, and can graze them down to the ground.  If a heavy over-grazing does occur, protect what is left of the plant and expect to find more sucker growth from the roots after the fact.  The Strawberry Bush responds to heavy grazing by creating thickets of growth.

Strawberry Bushes send out white blossoms in the late summer that gradually turn into spiky pink berries, expect the berries to open and display their fruit in September and October.  Use this bush intermittently with other shrubs and tall flowers to create a hedge or backdrop, it’s sparsely separated branches are beautiful, but provide little screening value.

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