The Midwest in the United States is the home of some very unusual types of native berry plants. These plants differ in size, with some being trees and others being shrubs. The berries they produce are a favorite of many types of wildlife, with squirrels, chipmunks and several kinds of birds eating them before and after they ripen. Among these native Midwest berry plants are the winterberry, American cranberrybush, flowering dogwood and the elderberry.
The American cranberrybush typically grows in damp soils. It is a deciduous shrub, losing its leaves in autumn. The leaves, which have three lobes, resemble a trident, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website. American cranberrybush grows to heights of 12 feet and can be just as wide when it grows out in an open area. The berries, which are green in the summer months but turn a very bright shade of red by autumn, are edible. Birds will eat them throughout the winter. These shrubs are useful as windbreaks and to plant along the banks of rivers and streams to prevent erosion.
Winterberry grows in parts of the Upper Midwest as a 6- to 10-foot-tall shrub. It has multiple stems and dark green leaves and is a member of the holly family. Only the female winterberry shrubs will bear fruit, pollinated by a nearby male plant. These berries are a brilliant red and grow by themselves or in pairs next to the stem. Winterberry gets its name because the fruits will stay onto the bush until well into winter, if they escape the attention of hungry birds.
Hackberry and Dogwood
The common hackberry is a tree that exists throughout most of the Midwest. Capable of being as tall as 60 feet, it grows rapidly and has green leaves that change to yellow in the fall. Hackberry produces large, fleshy edible berries that have a sweet taste, but the seeds inside are very hard. Hackberry bark is gray and resembles cork. The flowering dogwood is a large shrub or tree while the silky dogwood is a smaller shrub. Both of these attractive specimens produce berries, with those of the flowering type being red and those of silky dogwood a blue-gray color. The dogwood berries are highly prized by wildlife, and both species make excellent ornamental plants.
Other types of berry plants native to the Midwest include the purple chokeberry shrub, which has dark blue to black berries. Birds will gobble down the berries of the elderberry, which grows between 6 and 12 feet high. Snowberry rarely exceeds 6 feet tall but by autumn has lovely white berries that give the species its name. Often found next to streams, coralberry has red fruits that tend to stay on the bush into the winter months.