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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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

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Monday - November 08, 2010

From: Victoria, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: No Berries on Possumhaw from Victoria, TX
Answered by: Mike Tomme

QUESTION:

I bought a Possumhaw about 4 years ago because I love red berry plants. So you can realize my disappointment in this very healthy looking green tree that refuses to give me any red berries. What is wrong with this baby of mine? I'll do anything to get some of those lovely red berries I see in pictures and other people's yards. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Congratulations, it's a boy!

Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) is a dioecious plant, meaning the flowers on an individual tree are either male or female. Since your "baby" is four years old and otherwise healthy, the most likely explanation for the lack of berries is that it is a male. A much less likely explanation is that it is a female, but there are no male trees in the vicinity. Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants anwer that discusses how near a male tree needs to be. The short answer is the pollination is done by bees and the male tree can be miles away.

The only way you can be sure you are purchasing a female possumhaw is to purchase it during the fall or winter and make sure it has berries.

I'm sure this isn't the answer you wanted to hear, but a male possumhaw is still a nice looking small tree that should do well in your landscape. Maybe you can hang christmas ornaments on it?


Ilex decidua


Ilex decidua


Ilex decidua

 

 

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