NC Native Plant Society:
Plant Details

Ilex decidua var. decidua

Possumhaw Holly, Possum-haw

Scientific Name:

Ilex decidua var. decidua



Species Epithet:


Common Name:

Possumhaw Holly, Possum-haw

Plant Type


Life Cycle


Plant Family

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)


NC Native

Invasive Status:



12-36 ft.

Bloom Color(s):

White, Green


Sun - 6 or more hours of sun per day, Part Shade - 2 to 6 hours of sun per day

Soil Moisture:

Moist, Wet

Bloom Time:

March, April, May

Growing Area:

Piedmont, Sandhills, Coastal Plain

Habitat Description:

Floodplain forests, less commonly on mesic (or even dry), upland slopes. Common and widespread in the NC Piedmont. Common in the northwestern third of the Coastal Plain, but only fairly common at best in the southern Coastal Plain, including the Sandhills. Very rare to rare in the far eastern Coastal Plain, and western portions of the Piedmont. Absent in the NC mountains.

Leaf Arrangement:


Leaf Retention:


Leaf Type:

Leaves veined, not needle-like or scale-like

Leaf Form:


Life Cycle:


Wildlife Value:

Highest Wildlife Value

Landscape Value:

Highly Recommended and Available

State Rank:

S5: Secure (*Key)

Global Rank:

G5 - Secure (*Key)


This species is dioecious (male and female flowers on separate plants) so you need both sexes for the fruit production.

Fruits are shiny red drupes, round, 6-8 mm in diameter on pedicels 2 - 6 mm long.

Will Stuart

Leaves simple, membranous (not coriacious), deciduous, 4 - 8 cm long with wedge-shaped bases. Leaf margins undulate.

Ilex decidua "Council Fire", North Carolina Arboretum

Will Stuart

Fruits persist through winter. Ilex decidua "Warren's Red", Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Will Stuart

Close-up of flowers in early April which have a lovely subtle fragrance

Garden in Orange County, NC

Bettina Darveaux


USDA PLANTS Database Record

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