Ilex decidua Walter

Deciduous Holly, Possum Haw


CC = 5
CW = -3
MOC = 52

© SRTurner

Family - Aquifoliaceae

Habit - Dioecious shrub or small tree to 7 m.

Stems - Bark smooth, gray to grayish brown.

Ilex_decidua_bark.jpg Bark.

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_twig.jpg Young twig and leaf bases.

© SRTurner

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.

Ilex_decidua_leaves1.jpg Leaf fascicles.

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_leaf1.jpg Leaf adaxial.

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_leaf2.jpg Leaf abaxial.

© SRTurner

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.

Ilex_decidua_inflorescence1.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_inflorescence2.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_inflorescence3.jpg Inflorescences.

© SRTurner

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.

Ilex_decidua_flowers.jpg Flowers (staminate).

© SRTurner

Ilex_decidua_corollas.jpg Corollas (staminate flowers).

© SRTurner

Fruits - Berrylike drupes 5-8 mm in diameter, red at maturity, with 4 nutlets, these grooved longitudinally on the back.

Ilex_decidua_fruits.jpg Fruits.

© SRTurner

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.

The generic term Ilex is derived from the species epithet of a type of oak, Quercus ilex, which has similar foliage.

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).