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Ilex decidua

Common Name(s):
Possum haw holly, Possumhaw holly
Pendula , Council Fire , Warren's Red 20 ft., heavy berry set , Pocahontas, Sundance 7 ft., orange-red berries, Sentry 20 ft., Byer's Golden
Native Plants, Trees

Ilex decidua is a deciduous holly that is commonly called possum haw. It can be found on limestone glades and bluffs, along streams in wet woods, and in lowland valleys, sloughs and swamps. It is an upright shrub with a spreading, rounded crown which typically grows 7-15' tall in cultivation (to 30' in the wild). Its bark is gray-brown and smooth with occasional warts.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:   Fall                 Blooms:   Spring           Nut/Fruit/Seed:   Fall

Wildlife Value: It is a host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly.  Butterflies and other insects nectar at the blooms.  Fruits are eaten by songbirds and small mammals. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksiThis plant is moderately resistant to damage from deer.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:  The Possumhaw holly will occasional incur problems that nclude leaf spots and powdery mildew.

7-30 ft.
The whitish flowers of both male and female Possumhaw holly are relatively inconspicuous. Pollinated female flowers give way to orange-red berries which ripen in September and persist throughout the winter until mid-March when new growth begins. Birds, deer and a variety of small mammals (including opossums as the common name suggests) are attracted to the fruit.
The Possumhaw holly is easily grown in average, medium moisture soil in full sun to part shade. It is adaptable to both light and heavy soils, but prefers moist, acidic, organic soils. Does have some tolerance for wet conditions. Plants of this species are mostly dioecious (separate male and female plants), but some plants have perfect flowers (complete flowers with functioning stamens and pistils). For best show of berries, plant female plants, with at least one male plant to insure that pollination will take place. Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth begins.
Loose; rounded; many horizontal and ascending branches
Sun to partial shade; moist to dry soil
Small white flowers in spring; bright red-orange berries on female plants
7-15 ft.
Growth Rate:
The Possumhaw has alternate, simple, obovate, narrow, glossy, dark green leaves (2-3" long) that turn a dull purplish green to yellow in autumn.
host plant, deciduous, bees, nectar, pollinator, specialized bees, wildlife, songbirds, butterflies

NCCES plant id: 490

Ilex decidua Ilex decidua
CamaliaTWU, CC BY-NC-ND - 4.0
Ilex decidua Ilex decidua
Jerome Collins, CC BY-NC - 4.0
Ilex decidua Ilex decidua
Kerry Wixted, CC BY-NC - 4.0
Ilex decidua Ilex decidua
Mary PK Burns, CC BY-NC - 4.0
Ilex decidua Ilex decidua bloom detail
Debbie Roos