En EspaŅol

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
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
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


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


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

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex vomitoria

More Shrubs Questions

Flowering tree with non-invasive roots from Palos Verde CA
June 24, 2013 - Want a flowering tree with noninvasive roots for Palos Verdes, CA.
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Japanese privet from Glendale AZ
December 26, 2012 - We have Japanese privet shrub and they seem to be suffering from a disease, need help.
view the full question and answer

Need plants for full sun in Dallas Texas.
May 20, 2009 - What plants are best to use for full sun in Dallas Texas?
view the full question and answer

Advice for Texas Mountain Laurel in shady, narrow bed.
June 08, 2015 - My house faces N/NE and gets a lot of shade. I would like to plant a Texas Mountain Laurel in my narrow front bed, but what is the best way to amend my clay soil since it prefers rocky soil? What woul...
view the full question and answer

Sumac Leaves Turning Red
November 22, 2013 - Hi, Mr. Smarty Plants, I recently planted a flowering sumac bush. Is it normal for that plant to get fall leaf-color? About a week after planting it, the temp reached the mid-30s, and after that, I ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center