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?

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
    
 
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
6 ratings

Monday - March 11, 2013

From: Smithville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Identification of bush with red berries
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

bush? grows along fence lines in rural areas; sheds foliage in fall; berries appear; colors vary from red to orange, depending on soil?

ANSWER:

Your description sounds to me like Ilex decidua (Possumhaw).  As the species name suggests, it is deciduous—shedding its leaves in winter—but the female trees retain their orange, red, or sometimes yellow berries after they lose their leaves.  The berries are eaten by at least 9 bird species including cedar waxwings.  The berries are most often eaten late in the winter season after the berries have gone through one or more freezes.  As far as I know, the berry color depends on the genetics of the plant.  I have never seen any information indicating that it is due to soils it grows in.  Here is more information from Aggie Horticulture, University of Florida Extension Service and Stephen F. Austin University.

The females of its close relative, Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), also bear red berries; but, because they are evergreen, their red berries aren't as evident as those of the possumhaws.

 

From the Image Gallery


Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

More Plant Identification Questions

Identification of white flowering bush with lovely scent
May 17, 2015 - Please identify the sweet smelling white flowering bush/tree blooming now,May, in western Massachusetts. The flowers are tiny 4(?) petals in small clusters. The scent is wonderful.
view the full question and answer

Identification of plant at 6500 ft. in Boulder UT
September 19, 2009 - Located at 6,500 feet in Boulder, Utah..not Colorado in sandy soil with irrigation, we have discovered a deep green leafy (unfurls from the center) plant with six lobes on each side of the leaf stem. ...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
November 04, 2010 - I am trying to figure out what this plant is..It has light feathery leaves like dill. It is an annual in the midwest. Height 5-6 feet tall. Stalk is about 3 inches wide with branches that are 2 feet l...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification
June 01, 2010 - I was walking in the woods, near Dresden Michigan yesterday, in a deer friendly area, where we came upon a grouping of large, umbrella leaved plants, seemed to be interconnected and only one foot high...
view the full question and answer

Ivy with holes in its leaves
May 31, 2011 - Mr. Smarty Pants, Please help me, I was given an ivy (origin unknown). It is peculiar. It has holes in the leaves, not from bugs or from bacteria, etc. It is natural, the holes develop in some type...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center