Ilex decidua

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Ilex decidua
Ilex decidua 4.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Asterids
Order: Aquifoliales
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Genus: Ilex
I. decidua
Binomial name
Ilex decidua
Ilex decidua map.png

Ilex curtissii (Fern.) Small
Ilex decidua Walter var. curtissii Fern.

Ilex decidua (meadow holly, also called "possumhaw", "deciduous holly" or "swamp holly") is a species of holly native to the United States.


Leaves of Ilex decidua

Distinguishing features of this species are crenate leaf margins and fruiting pedicels that are 2–8 mm long.[2] Its "distinctive leaf shape... is less variable than other species of holly".[3] Leaves are obovate,[4] simple, alternating, deciduous, and grow to 2.5-7.5 cm long.[3]

Drupe fruits are red (or rarely yellow), shiny, and globose (spherical, or nearly so), with a diameter of 4–8 mm.[2][3] The pulp is bitter; they contain 3-5 seeds and mature in autumn.[3]

Slender twigs are glabrous and silvery gray, with numerous spur shoots, pointed lateral buds, and acuminate scales.[3]

Bark is "light brown to gray" in color and may be smooth or "warty and roughened".[3]

Distribution and ecology[edit]

Drawing of Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua is a common plant,[2] growing in the US in Alabama, Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.[5]

It grows in the northern Mexico states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.[6]

It prefers land in floodplains and the margins of swamps or lakes, and grows at elevations up to about 360 m.[2][3] Other plant species with which possumhaw is associated include water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), overcup oak (Quercus lyrata), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and hackberry (Celtis spp.).[7]

The fruits attract songbirds and small mammals.[4][8] Deer browse on young twigs.[3]

Human use[edit]

Ilex decidua with red "berries"

Because of the attractive "berries", the tree is used as a winter ornamental plant, and branches are collected for use as Christmas decorations.[3] The wood is not useful commercially because of the tree's small size.[3]


  1. ^ Stritch, L. (2018). "Ilex decidua". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T122927419A122927594. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T122927419A122927594.en. Retrieved 3 May 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Duncan, Wilbur H. and Marion B. Duncan (1988). Trees of the Southeastern United States. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 304–305. ISBN 0-8203-1469-2.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Brown, Claud L.; L. Katherine Kirkman (1990). Trees of Georgia and Adjacent States. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-88192-148-3.
  4. ^ a b "NPIN: Ilex decidua (Possumhaw)". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  5. ^ "PLANTS Profile for Ilex decidua (possumhaw)". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  6. ^ "Ilex decidua". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  7. ^ "FDEP Featured Plant: Florida Hollies". Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  8. ^ Little, Elbert L. (1980). The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees: Eastern Region. New York: Knopf. pp. 561–62. ISBN 0-394-50760-6.

External links[edit]

Media related to Ilex decidua at Wikimedia Commons Data related to Ilex decidua at Wikispecies