Ilex decidua Walter
Deciduous Holly, Possum Haw
CC = 5
CW = -3
MOC = 52
Family - Aquifoliaceae
Habit - Dioecious shrub or small tree to 7 m.
Stems - Bark smooth, gray to grayish brown.
Leaves - Deciduous, alternate, appearing fascicled, simple. Blades 2-7 cm long, oblanceolate to narrowly elliptic-obovate, rounded to narrowed or short-tapered to a blunt (spineless) point at the tip, gradually tapered at the base, relatively thin, herbaceous, the margins scalloped with numerous, fine, incurved teeth, these often minutely gland-tipped; the upper surface dull to moderately glossy, glabrous, the undersurface sparsely to moderately hairy along the veins.
Inflorescences - Small axillary clusters. Staminate flowers in clusters of 2-12, usually at the tips of spur shoots, with 4 or 5 perianth lobes and stamens. Pistillate flowers solitary or in clusters of 2-6, with 5 perianth lobes and staminodes.
Flowers - Calyx 0.5-0.8 mm long, the lobes sharply pointed, glabrous. Corollas 1.5-2.2 mm long, deeply lobed, white to greenish white. Stamens 4-8, fused to the base of the corolla, the pistillate flowers with staminodes similar in appearance to stamens, but smaller. Pistil 1 per flower, of 2-5 fused carpels, in staminate flowers reduced to a minute protuberance. Ovary superior, with 2-5 locules. Style absent or minute. Stigma capitate to disc-shaped, often shallowly 2-5-lobed.
Fruits - Berrylike drupes 5-8 mm in diameter, red at maturity, with 4 nutlets, these grooved longitudinally on the back.
Flowering - April - May.
Habitat - Swamps, forests, ledges and tops of bluffs, glade margins, sloughs, pond margins, streambanks. Sometimes cultivated.
Origin - Native to the U.S.
Lookalikes - Young specimens could be confused with Rhamnus lanceolata.
Other info. - In Missouri, this treelike shrub is found mostly in the southern 2/3 of the state, which is the far northwestern extent of its natural range. Beyond Missouri it is found throughout most of the southeastern quadrant of the continental U.S. It is recognized by its mostly smooth, gray or light brown bark, fascicles of distinctive leaves which are wider above the midpoint and tapered at the base, and small white flowers which later give rise to round red fruits. The berries provide wintertime forage for birds and mammals, but are reportedly poisonous to humans.
Photographs taken along the Katy Trail near Augusta, St. Charles County, MO, 11-27-2017, and at Shaw Nature Reserve, Franklin County, MO, 5-7-2021 (SRTurner).