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Ilex decidua facts for kids

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Ilex decidua
Ilex decidua 4.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
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.


Ilex decidua 1
Leaves of Ilex decidua

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

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

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

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

Distribution and ecology

Ilex decidua drawing
Drawing of Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua is a common plant, 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.

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

It prefers land in floodplains and the margins of swamps or lakes, and grows at elevations up to about 360 m. 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.).

The fruits attract songbirds and small mammals. Deer browse on young twigs.

Human use

Ilex decidua berries
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. The wood is not useful commercially because of the tree's small size.

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