En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


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
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
2 ratings

Monday - April 23, 2012

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Propagation, Shrubs
Title: Male and female possumhaws for berries from Georgetown TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Do I need to plant two ilex decidua (possumhaws), a male and female to have red berries on the tree in the winter?


Yes, the problem is going to be determining which is which. If you go to a nursery and the Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) all have berries, they are all females. Very often, nursery plants are propagated by cloning, which means every offspring will be the same sex. If you go to the nursery in Spring, the possumhaw will all have flowers, but that still doesn't tell you anything, they could be either sex. We are told that very skilled botanists with magnifying glasses can identify sex from examination of the flowers, but we aren't of that category.

If you ask for one male and one female at the nursery, they may have them but they may not know what you are talking about. When you see the possumhaws with berries, they may have been pollinated by male shrubs before the females ever left the greenhouse where they were propagated.

Here is a previous Mr. Smarty Plants article on this subject. The rule is that there must be a male of the same species and blooming at the same time somewhere close enough for the bees to pollinate.


From the Image Gallery

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

More Propagation Questions

Breaking dormancy of native seeds
November 22, 2006 - The science of seed preservation seems to be well advanced. However, Jill Nokes' book appears to be the only well-known information about breaking dormancy of native seeds. I'm grateful that she w...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting sumacs in Ontario
August 23, 2010 - I live in Aylmer Quebec. I have 10 baby sumac in my back yard and want to transplant them at my cottage in southern Ontario on Lake Simcoe. When can I do this and how?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting roughleaf dogwood in Pflugerville, TX
March 28, 2007 - Hello. My rougleaf dogwood is suckering enthusiastically, and rather than mow off all the root suckers, I'd like to transplant a couple of them to the stream bank in the greenbelt behind my house. ...
view the full question and answer

Starting wild plant seeds indoors from Dallas TX
February 23, 2014 - Is it possible to start some Phlox drummondii or other native wild flower from seed indoors, and then transplant to my garden? If so, can you suggest some?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Crossvine from San Antonio
September 03, 2011 - I have a new Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata) that has a single seedpod so far. What is the best way to plant it for the best chances for success? It is still green and a very hot August. Do I plant ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center