Possum haw

  • Ilex decidua
  • Deciduous holly


Summer coverEscape coverFood
Dense foliage of possum haw

The dense foliage of possum haw can provide summer thermal cover.

Rex Hamilton, USDA-NRCS Plants Database


Branches are light to dark gray with many spurlike twigs

Branches are light to dark gray with many spurlike twigs. Leaves are rounded at the tip with a tapered base and have round or blunt teeth. Like some other plants, possum haw is dioecious, bearing male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on different plants. The female plants bear the fruits, while male plants do not. Other common plants with this characteristic include persimmon, mulberry and red cedar.

©Larry Allain, USDA-NRCS Plants Database

Female tree

Female trees often bear abundant fruits. Intoxication can result when birds eat fermented fruits in late spring.

Clarence A. Rechenthin, USDA-NRCS Plants Database

Round red berries

Round red berries are about 1/4 inch across and contain about four seeds each.

USDA-NRCS Plants Database


Possum haw grows mostly as a shrub but sometimes as a tree up to 30 feet tall. The twigs are slender with short, spurlike lateral twigs. Possum haw can be dioecious, which means male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The white flowers bloom in mid-spring either singularly or in clusters. Fruits are orange to red and globe-shaped, ripen in fall, and are persistent throughout winter. Female shrubs can be heavy fruit producers. Possum haw can occur in many habitats from glades and rocky, open woods to pond borders, swamps, and low wet woods along streams.

Use by bobwhites

Many birds, including quail, consume large quantities of possum haw fruits, particularly in hard winter weather or when other food supplies become scarce. Possum haw may provide summer thermal cover and limited escape cover.