Ilex decidua is a Missouri native, deciduous holly that is commonly called possum haw. It occurs on limestone glades and bluffs, along streams in wet woods, and in lowland valleys, sloughs and swamps. An upright shrub with a spreading, rounded crown which typically grows 7-15′ tall in cultivation (to 30′ in the wild). Obovate, narrow, glossy, dark green leaves (2-3″ long) turn a dull purplish green to yellow in autumn. The whitish flowers of both male and female plants 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.
We took these pictures during the last ice storm in Saint Louis and wanted to share them with you. Some people think native plants have to be durable but maybe not attractive. Well, you certainly can see, the possum haw is just breathtaking. It is a beautiful, durable plant all year, but in the winter it is a real standout – especially with a coating of ice over the bright red berries. We hope you enjoy these pictures and decide that Missouri native plants might be the perfect plants for your next landscaping project.