Ilex Species, Possum Haw, Deciduous Holly, Winterberry, Meadow Holly, Swamp Holly

Ilex decidua

Family: Aquifoliaceae (a-kwee-foh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Ilex (EYE-leks) (Info)
Species: decidua (dee-SID-yoo-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Ilex curtissii
Synonym:Ilex decidua var. curtissii



Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage


Provides Winter Interest

Foliage Color:

Unknown - Tell us


20-30 ft. (6-9 m)


15-20 ft. (4.7-6 m)


USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)

USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)

USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)

USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)

USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)

USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

USDA Zone 8a: to -12.2 C (10 F)

USDA Zone 8b: to -9.4 C (15 F)

USDA Zone 9a: to -6.6 C (20 F)

USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

Where to Grow:

Unknown - Tell us


Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested

Bloom Color:

White/Near White

Bloom Characteristics:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

4.5 or below (very acidic)

4.6 to 5.0 (highly acidic)

5.1 to 5.5 (strongly acidic)

5.6 to 6.0 (acidic)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:

Allow unblemished fruit to ripen; clean and dry seeds


This plant is said to grow outdoors in the following regions:

Morrilton, Arkansas

Lilburn, Georgia

Mcdonough, Georgia

Savannah, Georgia

Nichols, Iowa

Clermont, Kentucky

Georgetown, Kentucky

Louisville, Kentucky

Edgard, Louisiana

Gramercy, Louisiana

Mandeville, Louisiana

Merryville, Louisiana

New Orleans, Louisiana

Reserve, Louisiana

Vacherie, Louisiana

Zachary, Louisiana

Clinton, Mississippi

Starkville, Mississippi

Joplin, Missouri

Holly Springs, North Carolina

Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Aledo, Texas

Arlington, Texas

Austin, Texas(2 reports)

Belton, Texas(2 reports)

Crawford, Texas

Dallas, Texas

Fort Worth, Texas

Houston, Texas(2 reports)

Huntsville, Texas

Quinlan, Texas

San Antonio, Texas

Trenton, Texas

Waco, Texas

Waxahachie, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Mar 1, 2015, Fires_in_motion from Vacherie, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

In January and February, one can see hundreds of these dotting the side of Airline Highway (a.k.a. Highway 61) between LaPlace and Gonzales, Louisiana. (About 1 in 4 specimens have salmon-orange berries rather than the usual deep red ones.) Once your eyes learn to spot them amidst the red-budded maple trees, you will see tons of I. decidua. A pretty easily-missed tree at other times of the year. Overall, there's nothing wrong with this tree at all, other than the fact that it's basically just a non-evergreen Ilex vomitoria. I'm not sure why anyone would prefer a tree that is bare in winter over one that is evergreen. I would like to grow one of the orange-berried specimens, but apparently this tree takes lots of patience to grow from seeds, and of course only females will end up berr... read more


On May 17, 2011, valf from Joplin, MO (Zone 6b) wrote:

Easily grown, BUT berries only on female plants. Of 25 I planted, only 2 were girls!!! Will try softwood cuttings...


On Feb 8, 2010, Gardennovice1a from London,
United Kingdom wrote:

Hi there, does anyone have experience of cutting a Possumhaw right back, so that only 10inch branch stumps remain? Would a Possumhaw eventually sprout from these branch stumps, and would this happen in the first Spring after pruning?


On Feb 19, 2007, MaineWindswept from Waldoboro, ME (Zone 5b) wrote:

I saw this shrub at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last week and offered great winter interest in the snowy landscape. Has anyone ever had success with this plant in Maine? I'd like to try it.


On Mar 13, 2006, MississippiRose from Starkville, MS wrote:

Native possumhaw also grows quite well in our alkaline soils (developed on Cretaceous chalk) in NE Mississippi. Our 30+ acres of pasture, fencerow forest and seasonal wetlands have thriving specimens in every light condition from deep shade to full sun. They're flourishing in our whole gamut of soil water conditions, from moderately dry to downright waterlogged. Even without heavy berrying, its gumdrop-tree growth habit and silvery bark are gorgeous in the winter.


On Feb 6, 2005, Mud_Puppy wrote:

There are at least half a dozen native possumhaw hollies on our 36 acres, mostly along the fence rows. Our place is predominantly pasture - and our soils are quite alkaline, not acidic. Even without berries, their light bark and graceful habit make them a winter delight. Berrying here seems to be related to nutrient competition from other plants; those I've been able to clear around for a meter or so produce many berries, but those with many similar-sized midstory plants and vines crowding it don't berry well. Competition for sun is not the limiting factor, as I first discovered ours by the bright red berries in deep shade at the margins of a shallow bog. All that I've found here since then are at least partially shaded by cedars, water hickory, red oak, and mock orange.


On Sep 4, 2004, thesmorphoros from Austin, TX (Zone 8b) wrote:

Our house came with two mature clumps along the back fence, probably volunteers. They are one of the best features of the back yard, with their multiple trunks and arching branches. In the winter, the red berries outline the bare branches, in contract with their evergreen cousins, yaupon holly. At 20', they nestle nicely under the canopy of my neighbor's live oak and pecan.


On Nov 12, 2003, plantzperson from Zachary, LA wrote:

I always look forward to this time of year so I can see the lovely berries of these bushes along fence lines & woodland edges. There is a heavy crop of the berries this year. I have seen the orange fruited ones in the wild in this area. I have also seen the rare yellow one growing in the wild here but it does not set fruit every year like the reds one tend to do. This plant should be utilized more for it has a wonderful sculptural quality in the cold months & many times, it weeps over in a wonderful way and adds so much to the landscape.


On Nov 11, 2003, dogbane from New Orleans, LA (Zone 9a) wrote:

A good native tree for the Deep South for winter color and to attract birds. It loses its leaves at the first hint of real cold (usually late December in New Orleans, Louisiana) to reveal stems covered in red berries. I've read that there are orange berried cultivars available, but I've never seen them.