Black and White Autumn Berries

Wikd privet leaves (1a)

Wild privet (Ligustrum vulgare) or Pribhéad in Irish is often found growing in hedgerows.  Its leaves grow in opposite pairs and are spear shaped or lanceolate. They are dark green on top and pale green underneath but changing now to a dark burgundy colour (1a).  It is a deciduous shrub, though when winters are mild it retains most of these leaves.  During May, June and July it produced pyramids of creamy-white, sickly-sweet, scented flowers that were pollinated by bees (1b).  Some people love their scent; others abhor it.  These have now become black, shiny, egg-shaped, poisonous berries (1c).  Each berry contains one or two seeds. Birds eat them, especially thrushes, blackbirds and finches.

Wild privet flowers (1b)
Wild privet berries (1c)

Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) or Póirín sneachta in Irish is a deciduous shrub with oval leaves growing in opposite pairs on the twigs.  It produces round, white berries now (2a). These grew from June to September from small, inconspicuous, bell-shaped, pink flowers at the end of twigs (2b). These produced copious amounts of nectar that attracted lots of insects, particularly bees and wasps.  Each inedible berry contains two seeds.  The pulp around the seeds is spongy because it contains air bubbles.  Children pop them open to see them bursting.

Snowberries (2a)
Snowberry flower (2b)

This plant was introduced from North America in the nineteenth century by landowners as an ornamental plant.  However, it began to be used extensively in woodland areas as dense, ground cover for game birds such as pheasants, grouse and quail. It spreads quickly from suckers, grows on a variety of soils and grows well in the shade of trees.