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September berries, fruits, nuts and seeds

Other September pages: Leaf fall • FlowersBirds • Insects, butterflies and animals • Weather

Put your cursor over any photo to see its caption, or click here to see more September berry, fruit, nut and seed photos.

September is a great month for berries and they can be a useful aid to identifying shrubs. For example, there are red haws on hawthorn and juicy blue-black sloes on blackthorn, both of which become more noticeable as their bushes shed foliage. Blackberries can still linger throughout month, and while some may still be edible, others are moreish or over-ripe (amazingly the very occasional bramble flower can also still be seen).

You also see red hips on rose bushes, plus black berries on dogwood and – early in the month – the hanging clusters of elderberries. Bizarrely, dogwood can even produce a few flowers during September. Cherry laurel also has black berries but as the month goes on they all fall to the ground, creating a squashy mess on urban pavements. Wayfaring tree (a shrub of downland) may start the month with some red berries but they are all black by its end. Likewise privet berries (both on the narrow-leaved wild bushes and the rounder leaved garden variety if it is not too closely trimmed) can still be green earlier in the month but turn black later.

Trees and shrubs with red berries include whitebeam, rowan, guelder rose and female yews (the latter possibly still ripening to red earlier in the month: by the end of the month some have fallen to the ground), while the distinctively fluted berries of spindle start the month a dull maroon colour and then ripen to an attractive pink towards its end. Holly berries turn from green to red later in the month. The garish orange seed heads of cuckoo pint may just still be seen on shady verges, as can the equally garish ones of stinking iris.

Two climbing plants - black and white bryony – leave long strings of their red berries in hedgerows long after their leaves have withered: on both species they may still be ripening from green to red during the month, though in places they are fully red from the start of the month. Black bryony berries have a more luscious look than those of white bryony, which are somewhat duller, but both are poisonous. In addition you can see red berries on honeysuckle even as it sometimes continues to produce flowers, and the same is true of bittersweet (otherwise known as woody nightshade) whose poisonous berries look alarmingly seductive. (Because it can be so late flowering, some bittersweet berries can still be green even late in the month.)

Another shrub that is in flower in September is ivy, though its blooms look so unconventional that you may not recognise them as such. It is their sickly sweet smell that usually alerts you to their presence, and the summery sound of buzzing insects, as honeybees, butterflies, wasps and flies are attracted to this important late source of nectar. Ivy typically flowers in the second half of September, though this varies widely from bush to bush and year to year: it can happen as early as late August (eg in 2017), or not till the very end of September.

In gardens and semi-wild places firethorn (aka pyracantha) bushes are aflame with great sprays of orange (or very occasionally red) berries; cotoneaster is also covered with red berries. In similar locations (and also sometimes in wilder spots) snowberries sport white globular berries which will in midwinter will stand out on their otherwise bare twigs (though at this time of year the shrub still has green leaves). This is another plant that also may continue produce new flowers (tiny pink ones) well into September.

You can still find wild plums of various kinds (including damsons, which look like large oval sloes, and bullaces, which are oval and purple blue or yellowish with a pink blush), as well as apples, but as the month progresses they are increasingly to be seen on the ground. Crab apples can litter the ground in large quantities right from the start of the month. In suburban streets fallen berries and fruits can make a squashy mess on pavements.

Nuts and seeds

Nuts fall to the ground in September and by the end of the month the ground crunches underfoot with horse chestnuts (known colloquially as conkers), acorns (on both normal oaks and evergreen ones), beech nuts (or at least the cases they came in: the nuts themselves seem to disappear very quickly, presumably eaten by squirrels and the like) and even some sweet chestnuts, though plenty of the latter still remain on the tree. If you are sharp-eyed you may spot ripe hazelnuts early in the month, though squirrels and dormice generally seem to have eaten nearly all of them by now.

Some seeds on trees yellow or even turn brown as the month progresses and from a distance can look like tinted leaves. You can see this with ash and hornbeam, both of which sport big clumps of seeds. Hornbeam seeds may start to fall even when still green, forming thick carpets on the ground. Squirrels feeding on them may be to blame for this, since plenty still remain on the tree.

Squirrels also eat sycamore, field maple and Norway maple seeds while they are still green in July and August, leaving carpets of them under the tree (look closely and you can find the slit where they cut the seed out of its winged casing). You see fallen seeds under these trees in September too, but by now they tend they have increasingly turned brown (especially on sycamore), so may be being shed naturally. Some seeds of all three species also remain on the tree.

Winged seeds litter the ground beneath limes, having fallen off during July and August, though some still remain on the tree. Some of those left may turn yellow but others do not. Birch has fat cylindrical fruits which start to turn brown as the month progresses, though some can still be green at the month's end. If you look closely birch also has the tiny buds of next year's catkins and the same is true of alder and hazel. The new cones of larch are now brown and indistinguishable from last year's ones, which are also still on the tree. On alder this year's cones are still green but sit along the desiccated ones from last year.

After country walks you find burs (from burdock) and tiny hooked seeds (for example from cleavers, wood avens and enchanter's nightshade) stuck to your socks.

More September pages:


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