Catberry or Mountain Holly
Nemopanthus mucronatus = Ilex mucronata
This interesting eastern North American shrub is so different from the rest of hollies that for centuries it was treated as
the only plant in the holly family other than hollies.
Recently, however, molecular biologists have placed catberry together with hollies. Catberry is a northerner in our flora,
reaching to Massachusetts and even farther
south all the way from northern Canada. The closer you approach ponds, swamps, and bogs, the more chances for you to spot
it. Yet it is also capable of
jumping quite away from the water, up slope—the way it occurs along the trail in Alper Preserve. This is a clonal shrub forming
dense groups of tall
(to 12 ft) straight stems with smooth light gray bark. Like other hollies, it is dioecious (that is, keeping its staminate
and pistillate flowers on separate clones).
The flowers start to develop at the end of April before the leaves, and the shrub covered with a multitude of tiny blooms
then looks like a large yellow cloud.
Flowers of both sexes are meager and become inconspicuous amidst leaves, once the foliage develops; the fruits, however, are
truly spectacular: colored raspberry red,
they are dotting the entire large shrub, dangling on long stalks, like miniature cherries. Too bad that they don't hold long
and soon are dropped to the ground.
Fruits are dispersed by birds: ruffed grouse, robin, migrating songbirds, and also by black bears. In the fall catberry becomes
conspicuous for another while due to its pale lemon autumn foliage color.
Spectacular, brightly colored fruits on long stalks. July 21, Myles Standish SF
Fruiting shrub. East Head Reservoir, July 21, Myles Standish SF, Plymouth
Start of flowering in spring, before developing leaves. April 29, Ponkapoag Bog, Blue Hills Reservation, Canton
Pistillate flower. May 12, Blue Hills Res., Quincy
Staminate flowers. May 15, Black Pond Cons. Area, Norwell
A flowering branch.
Stems with smooth gray bark. June 20, Ponkapoag Bog, Blue Hills Reservation, Canton
Autumn color. October 18, Bloody Pond Cons. Area, Plymouth