Explore Plants

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - May 04, 2009

From: Euless, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources
Title: Yaupons not showing berries in Euless, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

From all I have read, Possumhaw holly is supposed to have berries only on the female. However I have been told and read conflicting things about whether you must have both a male & female in order for the female to berry. Our yard already has several yaupon holly in it, but none of them have berried since we bought the house two years ago. Since we are buying the possumhaw as a winter berry source for birds, we want to be sure that it does have berries.

ANSWER:

You are actually talking about two species of the Ilex genus, Ilex decidua (possumhaw) and Ilex vomitoria (yaupon). As you might guess from the Latin name "decidua," the first species is deciduous. However, as they mature, these plants are covered with gorgeous orange-red berries all winter long, and are beautiful even bare of leaves. You say that the plants were in your yard when you bought your house, which means they might have had berries previously. The problem is, members of the Ilex genus are dioecious; that is, only the female bushes have berries, but there must be a male of the same species and blooming at the same time within about 40 feet of the female in order for the female to have berries. Bees are the pollinators, and sometimes will pollinate a plant grown in a yard with pollen they have gathered in the "wild" or in some other yard. 

So, there are two possibilities, all your shrubs are male or they are female, were purchased and planted with berries on them, and no male of the same species is in the area. The second is the strongest possibility, as nurseries commonly carry only females of berry-producing plants, because that is what everyone wants. The plants were probably shipped by a grower to the nursery where they were purchased after they had been pollinated and were showing berries. It is very difficult to differentiate between male and female bushes when they are not berrying, so the nurseries will sometimes tell you that "yaupons all have berries," as demonstrated by their plants on sale, which are all females. To make things even more complex, most commercially available yaupons are propagated vegetatively, by cloning, and all are cloned from female plants. 

If the yaupons in your yard are deciduous, you have Ilex decidua (possumhaw), which indeed are a great source for attracting birds. If you go to the nursery to buy some more, they will no doubt have berries on them, so they are female, too. You will have to do some detective work, and insist that the nursery find a couple of male plants (one or two will take care of pollinating a lot of females) of the same species. The growers, at least, have to have had males in the growing area for the two or three years the plants were being readied for shipment and sale, so that they would indeed have berries.

 

 

More Seed and Plant Sources Questions

Native plant nursery
July 07, 2005 - I want to grow wildflower starts for tough-to-grow plants for retail and commercial sale. And I prefer organic, but, jeez, one step at a time. Any guidance on the ins and outs of this business? D...
view the full question and answer

Source for sensitive briar in Austin
October 06, 2009 - My husband, young son and I are beginning a landscaping project at my son's school where they have a colorwheel garden. Our section is the green section. There are already some plants in the plot and...
view the full question and answer

Donation of seeds of Silphium Terebinthinaceum to India
October 03, 2009 - Hi, I am located in India. I am planning to plant Silphium Terebinthinaceum in my garden in India. Please let me know who can donate me seeds to India. I need 20-30 seeds.
view the full question and answer

Sources for native plants astragalus and acerola
May 12, 2005 - Where can I get a plant of astragalus as well as acerola?
view the full question and answer

Source for Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: an Earthwise Guide for Central Texas
March 18, 2010 - Do you know where I could get a copy of the publication, "Native and Adapted Landscape Plants: An Earthwise Guide for Central Texas"? I believe this was a joint effort between the City of Austin an...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.