Coralberry

Coralberry
Coralberry

One of coralberry’s common names is Indian Currant so of course I had to taste it when I spotted a thicket today.

phlifft … I didn’t have to do an internet search to confirm the presence of saponin. Just tasting one of the tiny drupes left my mouth a bit soapy and bitter. For the record, coralberry is mildly toxic to mammals so you probably shouldn’t follow my lead.

The leaves are a delicacy for deer. But coralberry is also a host plant for one of my favourite moths: the snowberry clearwing. They look a little bit like giant bees.

Coralberry makes a nice looking thicket and because the berries are less than delicious they tend to persist over the winter. Shade tolerant, drought tolerant. They get to be about one metre high. I am thinking I might plant some as a screen for my compost bin …

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16 thoughts on “Coralberry

  1. I have some of the closely related Snowberry (Symphirocarpos albus). Never tasted them, but someone I know did and said they taste like soap. I’ve read that birds will eat the berries only at the end of winter if food is in very short supply, which reminds me of an expression my grandfather used to use – “strictly from hunger”.

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  2. I read somewhere (maybe on a nature walk signpost once) that the berries (drupes) are an important wildlife food, so I have always left mine undisturbed and given them room to grow if they could. Like you, I notice that the drupes tend to persist, which I consider a winter bonus. I’m in Wichita, Kansas, by the way. They are common in this area.

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  3. I have some coral berry growing in a super shaded area. It never fills in very much but then it shares a space with multiple other more aggressive ground covers. I think it is gorgeous part of the time and since it isn’t the dominant plant in its area I’m fine with it as is. I approach it like Turk’s Cap – you know – showy SOME of the time but needs to be planted with something that will hold interest for other parts of the year.

    (I was the only person in my family who would taste the Texas persimmon fruit. It was mildly sweet to the tongue but I didn’t chew. Or swallow! The mockingbirds may have the rest.).

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    1. The Texas persimmon I tasted was so sweet and sticky it was almost too much. I knew they were perfectly safe to eat because I had already read about them on a foraging site long before I spotted them growing wild. I’ve seen some recipes for jams but I was thinking it might make a nice jelly mixed in with wild grape or wild plum. They are sweet but not exactly complex.

      The thicket I saw was really healthy and pretty but now I am reconsidering adding it here. Or at the least putting it in alone. I’ll look around and see if I can come up with a good companion plant. I really really like those clearwing moths ….

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  4. I love that you tasted one and will mention this (and link to you) in my Wildflower profile post in Dec. when I profile this shrub if you don’t mind. I love mine.

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  5. I used to have coral berry, but pulled it out…just ’cause. It’s leaves would be decimated every August–maybe by the moth and would look awful. While I’m happy to have yucky (to people) looking plants in my gardens if they feed something, I didn’t have a good spot in which to plant the coral berry so that it wasn’t obvious. I did keep a nice grouping in the Green Garden at ZBG when I was there. I was lovely–arching branches and it always developed berries (*drupes–I love that word!)–at least until something ate them.

    Be careful with your samplings of plants!! :)

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    1. Good to know. I probably won’t bother growing them now. That explains why I don’t see them more often. I am always careful with plants. I wasn’t planning on swallowing a handful. I actually worry more about real toxins like the sugar in the rootbeer I drank last night. heh

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