As I drove down a country road there it was, a plant I’d been seeking out for five years, a plant I’ve only seen twice before in our area. The leaves have fallen now but the bright pink and red fruit stood out in the drab landscape on a cloudy day. The plant was a shrub, by far the largest of the three I’ve been fortunate enough to find. It was an eastern wahoo.
Many years ago I saw a single stem of the plant bearing fruit on one of the nearby State Game Lands. But the spot where it grew was impacted by a tornado in 1985 and the shrub could never be found again, perhaps because white-tailed deer are known to browse the stems.
More recently there was a small cluster of fruit-bearing stems in the roadside hedgerow of an agricultural area. But, those plants also disappeared when the hedgerow was removed.
This time it was a number of large plants growing near the road in an area of abandoned farms gradually reverting to forest. There were 25-30 stems along the top of the roadbank; the tallest almost ten feet in height.
What caught my eye was the abundance of fruit, those colorful, oddly shaped open capsules from which dangled one or more bright reddish-orange berry-like fruits –
Eastern wahoo is a plant of the Midwestern states with, apparently, a very limited range in Pennsylvania, primarily in the southern and western counties. But, here it was adding to the list of species I’ve photographed in northcentral Pennsylvania; here it was, adding a bit of color to the late fall landscape –
Eastern wahoo has a number of common names; the most colorful being “Hearts Bursting with Love” – how appropriate for a plant that many would love to have growing in their gardens.