I recently added Coralberry, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus, as plant number 543 on my Blue Jay Barrens flora list. I originally found this native plant a few years ago while cutting and spraying Bush Honeysuckle, and at first glance mistook it for that invasive shrub.
I was fairly confident that Coralberry was the proper identification, but none of the plants held any of the coral-red fruit from which its common name was derived. Coralberry performs best in full sunlight, so I believe the lack of fruit was a result of the plants growing in this shaded location. Identification keys list fruit color as a primary way of separating Coralberry from other related species. I wanted to see that fruit before I committed to my identification, so I waited and watched the plants grow.
When two years went by without any flowers or fruit, I plucked up one of the shrubs and planted it into a container in a location where it would get full sunlight. The plant responded favorably to its new environment. An abundance of leaves and the development of flowers gave a promise of future fruit.
The specimen I chose for my container was not much over a foot tall. The main stems were developing the characteristic flaking bark of the species, so I’m assuming the plant was a few years old. Vegetative reproduction in the form of root suckers and underground runners allows a single colonizing Coralberry to grow into a sizable thicket. During its summer in the container, the plant produced several new shoots.
This fall it showed me the fruit. This left no question about the identification, so I moved Coralberry to a permanent position on the Blue Jay Barrens flora list.