Monday, May 9, 2016

Class of 2016 -- Ilex decidua, possumhaw

Ilex decidua, possumhaw holly, photo by Earl McGehee

Why I'm growing Ilex decidua in my garden...

1) It is native to Tennessee, throughout the Southeast and into southern portions of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic.

2) Powell Gardens in Kingsville, Missouri calls it drought-resistant, while Texas AgriLife Extension says it also can cope with poor drainage.

3) Missouri Botanical Garden says it can tolerate heavy clay soil.

4) From what I've seen in person at Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville, Ilex decidua flowers attract bees. (Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center agrees that all holly flowers provide bees with a good source of nectar.)

5) As the name implies, Ilex decidua is a deciduous holly,which means its berries should be conspicuous in the wintertime. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center notes that possumhaw berries provide food for songbirds, gamebirds, opossums, raccoons and other wildlife.

Note that Ilex decidua is a dioecious species, meaning that both cross-pollination must occur between male and female plants in order for the females to bear fruit. I only planted one female cultivar, so it will be interesting to see if the bees manage to bring pollen from any male possumhaws growing wild or in other nearby gardens. I'e also heard that female possumhaw plants can bear fruit if they receive pollen from male Ilex opaca (American holly) trees.

6) The Native Plant Society of Texas says that possumhaw is deer-resistant and serves as a host plant for dusky-blue groundstreak butterflies.

Do you grow possumhaw? If so, what has been your experience with this plant?