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November bushes, berries and seeds

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Picture: hips on dog rose. Click here for more November berry and seed photos.

As foliage tints and falls, one notices shrubs that are still green. Ivy is an obvious example, as is garden privet - the species common in garden hedges. The latter can have some leaves turning yellow and falling in November and December, but keeps most of them green throughout the winter. The narrower-leaved wild privet gets a lot thinner, sometimes with quite a lot of yellow tint later in November and in December, but it usually retains at least some leaves.

Other shrubs which still have green foliage in November include buddleia and bramble. Buddleia has often done quite a bit of shedding in August and September, and from quite early in October produces the new shoots of next year's leaves. Some simply stay in this state in November, with both old and new leaves visible, while others do a bit more shedding, producing muddy yellow tints in the process. Bramble continues to lose leaves steadily during the month, with some turning yellow, gold, maroon or even an intense red, but it still retains some green leaves.

Woodland tendrils of honeysuckle can also be showing new leaf shoots from early in November, though generally they do not do this until December. Honeysuckles in more suburban settings may not go bare at all and can even still be showing the occasional flower early in the month.

On other shrubs some foliage can linger on. Hawthorn and blackthorn mostly lose their leaves in October but may hang onto some - tinted or even still green - until well into November. Dogwood may also keep some leaves (green or an attractive deep maroon) into the first half of November, and once it sheds, its twigs are a bright maroon colour too. Also in the first half spindle and forsythia can both sport an attractive mix of colours - golds, yellows and pinks on spindle; yellow and some maroon on forsythia - and you may see some remaining reddish leaves on guelder rose or wayfaring tree.

Bracken still has some tint - yellow or gold, maybe even fronds that are still green - into the first half of November, though the overwhelming majority has turned brown by now. Elder and traveller's joy can both hold onto some green-yellow leaves right till the end of the month, and Russian vine may also still have some foliage. Snowberry loses its leaves inconspicuously (and often quite suddenly) as leaf fall comes to an end, mainly shedding them green but with some shrivelling.


Once leaves fall, the remaining berries become very visible and prominent. That is certainly true of snowberry, whose white spherical fruits have been around since late summer and can stay on the plant all winter.

Many other shrubs still have some berries left, though as the month goes on more and more are consumed by birds, mice or squirrels. This is true of haws on hawthorn and sloes on blackthorn, though in both cases you can find bushes with quite a few berries even late in the month. These tend to be going over, however, turning maroon in the case of haws, or black and even shrivelled in the case of sloes. A few hips also remain, prominent on the bare branches of dog rose. Some will remain there all winter, whether because they are inedible, unpalatable or inaccessible, I do not know.

Other berries you can see include the bright red ones of holly, the fluted pink ones of spindle, and the bright red strings of black bryony berries. A few rowan, guelder rose and whitebeam berries may survive even after their foliage is gone, and you can occasionally see the red berries of woody nightshade (aka bittersweet). Black berries that you may just come across include those of dogwood and privet (usually wild privet, though garden privet is possible). Note also the bright orange berries of stinking iris (often, though not exclusively, found on lime soils) on a plant whose fronds look a bit like oversized daffodil leaves.

Ivy is covered with berries, but they are not yet ripe - still green, though with a cap that is brown for much of November but turns greyer towards its end. In gardens and semi-wild situations firethorn (also known as pyracantha) still sports its bright orange or red berries - consumed eagerly by birds later in the winter, though for taste or other reasons not much in demand at this stage. Cotoneaster bushes have masses of red berries, though some fall or are eaten (for example by wood pigeons) during the month. The red berries on female yew trees continue to fall to the ground (or get eaten by birds) as the month goes on, though some may remain on the tree.

On heathland gorse can sport some yellow flowers, while in gardens winter jasmine shrubs burst into bloom - usually later in the month after it has lost its leaves, but sometimes earlier in the month while the leaves are still there. Winter flowering cherry trees also bloom in gardens late in the month, while viburnum continues to flower in its half-hearted way (some flowers out, some going over or not yet open). Rhododendron may put out flower buds though they will not bloom until May. Draped over hedgerows on chalk soils, old man’s beard, the seed of traveller’s joy, takes on the fluffy appearance that gives it its name, if it has not already done so in late October: it seems much more abundant than the plant's flowers were in July and August.

Seeds and catkins on trees

Falling leaves reveal seeds and catkins on trees. Hazel has in fact had new catkin buds on its twigs since July but they will not lengthen into the characteristic yellow lambs tails till late January or February. Likewise the catkins buds on alder, also formed in summer, will not flower till February. Its new seed cones turn from green to brown in the first half of the month if they have not already done so in late October, matching last year's which are still on the tree (though the new cones are closed while last year's are open). Birch also has catkin buds which do not flower until late March or early April, and may retain some of its dried brown seed cylinders.

Similiarly still on the tree are the spherical seed cases of London planes, which turn brown early in the month if they have not already done so in late October, and the bunches of dried keys on female ash trees. Some limes retain some of their winged fruit and beech has a few open nut cases still on its twigs. Dried brown clusters of hornbeam seeds may remain even after the leaves have fallen. Likewise sycamore can keep bunches of seeds on bare twigs (it is easy to confuse them at a casual glance with ash seeds) and the same is true of field maples.

Early in the month a few fallen acorns and the spiky seed cases of sweet chestnut may be evident on the ground, but they soon disappear, either getting eaten or trodden into the mud. Also early in the month some apples may remain on the bare branches of garden trees. Mistletoe is visible growing on poplar and lime (apparently also on apple and goat willow sometimes): its glassy white berries are supposed to be a favourite food of mistle thrushes (hence the bird's name). You can also see last season's birds nests - it is interesting to see which sites the birds chose.

More November pages:

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