Plant DetailShow Menu

Ilex decidua

Phonetic Spelling
EE-leks dee-SID-yoo-ah
Description

Ilex decidua is a deciduous holly that is commonly called possumhaw. 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 or small tree 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.  Birds, deer and a variety of small mammals (including opossums as the common name suggests) are attracted to the fruit.  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.

Dioecious: need male pollinator plant to get female fruit set.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

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

See this plant in the following landscape:
Backyard Patio
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Byer's Golden'
  • 'Council Fire'
  • 'Pendula'
  • 'Pocahontas'
  • 'Red Cascade'
    Many fruits. I. decudua 'Red Escort'  and I. opaca males can be pollinators.
  • 'Red Escort'
    Male pollinator, dense glossy foliage, looks like 'Warren's Red'
  • 'Sentry'
    20 ft. tall
  • 'Sundance'
    7 ft., orange-red berries
  • 'Warren's Red'
    20 ft., heavy berry set. 'Red Escort'  and I. opaca males can be pollinators.
'Byer's Golden', 'Council Fire', 'Pendula', 'Pocahontas', 'Red Cascade', 'Red Escort', 'Sentry', 'Sundance', 'Warren's Red'
Tags:
#bees#deciduous#small tree#showy berries#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#winter interest#showy fruits#wet sites#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#red fruits#fire resistant#fall fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#pollinator garden
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Byer's Golden'
  • 'Council Fire'
  • 'Pendula'
  • 'Pocahontas'
  • 'Red Cascade'
    Many fruits. I. decudua 'Red Escort'  and I. opaca males can be pollinators.
  • 'Red Escort'
    Male pollinator, dense glossy foliage, looks like 'Warren's Red'
  • 'Sentry'
    20 ft. tall
  • 'Sundance'
    7 ft., orange-red berries
  • 'Warren's Red'
    20 ft., heavy berry set. 'Red Escort'  and I. opaca males can be pollinators.
'Byer's Golden', 'Council Fire', 'Pendula', 'Pocahontas', 'Red Cascade', 'Red Escort', 'Sentry', 'Sundance', 'Warren's Red'
Tags:
#bees#deciduous#small tree#showy berries#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#winter interest#showy fruits#wet sites#specialized bees#low flammability#NC native#deer resistant#red fruits#fire resistant#fall fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#larval host plant#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant mid-spring#pollinator garden
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    decidua
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    United States
    Distribution:
    TX through KS northeast to IL east to MD and south to FL
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly. Butterflies and other pollinators nectar at the blooms. Fruits are eaten by songbirds and small mammals. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Resistant to fire and moderately resistant to damage from deer. Heat, drought, and soil compaction tolerant.
    Edibility:
    Fruits eaten by songbirds and small mammals.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 7 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Ascending
    Horizontal
    Rounded
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Pollinated female flowers give way to orange-red berries which ripen in September and persist throughout the winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    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. Flower blooms from April to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    2-3 inch long glossy, dark green, alternate, simple, obovate, narrow, crenate margined elliptic leaves that turn a dull purplish green to yellow in fall
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Gray-brown and smooth with occasional warts.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Naturalized Area
    Riparian
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Small groups
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Fire
    Wet Soil