Nemopanthus mucronatus

Botanical Name:
Nemopanthus mucronatus

Common Name:
Mountain Holly

Plant Hardiness: Zone 4

Flower: Small, light green, inconspicuous flowers open in late spring

Bloom Time: Late spring, May into June

Foliage: Light green leaves fade to yellow in autumn

Fruit: Very showy, bright velvety red berries cover the shrub in mid-summer. Only female plants produce berries

Habit: Rounded shrub that grows along the edges of lakes and streams. Fruits best in full sun

Size: 6 feet tall with about the same width

Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade

Native Habitat: Northeastern United States into Canada.

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Description: Mountain Holly is a plant that very few people know about. However, if you have done any canoeing along a river or around the edge of a lake in northern New England, you may well have seen this plant. The only time of year you would really notice it is in early August when the female plants are covered with red berries. At that time, the female plants are spectacular. I was so impressed that I brought back cuttings and seed from our area in northern Maine. We have found that it is quite difficult to root; however, we are growing a number of plants from seed. Fortunately, it blooms at an early age so we can separate males from females.

This is a plant for a moist woodland garden. It will tolerate a good bit of shade, but the berries will be much more effective if the plant is grown in full sun. It is very hardy and I don’t know of any disease problems – it seems to be disease free up North. Mountain holly survives somewhat wet feet, although it grows naturally slightly above the water line where its roots can get down to plenty of water but the base of the plant is high and dry. The wild shrub garden at the Connecticut Experiment Station in Mt. Carmel, CT has a few of these planted. Although they don’t seem extremely happy, they are surviving in a hot and dry situation. It is an excellent different woodland garden plant for moist areas. Male and female plants are required for the berry set. The shrub gets approximately 6 feet high and in most cases about that wide. It has small light green leaves, not unlike those of an Amelanchier