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?

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
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

Thursday - February 15, 2007

From: Buda, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Differentiating between Iles decidua and Ilex vomitoria
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Is there any way to tell a male possum haw holly from a female? I have a possum haw that never lost all of it's leaves and has no berries. Could it be a male?

ANSWER:

First of all, Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) and Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) look very similar, except that yaupon is evergreen. Perhaps you have a yaupon tree and that is why your tree still has leaves. Both trees are dioecious (having flowers with male structures and flowers with female structures on separate trees).

Although there could be reasons a female plant would not produce berries (e.g., no male trees near enough to provide pollen or some environmental cause such as a late freeze or heavy rains), there is a good chance that you have a male tree since you had no fruit. However, you need to see the flowers to tell for sure. The male flowers have functional stamens producing pollen. The female flowers have stamens that produce no pollen. Even though they are dioecious plants, they aren't always completely so. The female flowers generally have nonfunctioning stamens, but sometimes you will find perfect flowers—those with both a functioning pistil and also with stamens producing pollen.

You can see drawings of male and female flowers of possumhaw and yaupon on the USDA Plants Database. Note that the female flower has an enlarged ovary and stamens that are slender with no pollen. The male flowers have stamens that are fully developed with pollen. You can look at the blossoms in the spring (March, April, May) when both trees bloom to determine whether your tree is male or female.

 

More Trees Questions

Tx Mt. Laurel and Mex. Buckeye seed propagation in drought
July 01, 2011 - I live in the Hill Country near New Braunfels. Since I am only at my house in July and August, I would like to plant both Texas Mountain Laurel and Mexican Buckeye from the seeds harvested from mothe...
view the full question and answer

Decline of pollinating bees around Mexican plums
March 19, 2007 - Dear Dr. Smarty Plants While out working in my yard (about nine miles southwest of the Wildfower Center) this morning, I became aware that there was no sound of bees buzzing. I checked our Mexica...
view the full question and answer

Non-native mimosa failing to bloom in Leitchfield KY
October 29, 2011 - I have a medium size mimosa tree here in KY that usually blooms beautifully; it did not bloom at all this year. It leafed out well, needs a few dead limbs pruned, but seems otherwise healthy. Please t...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of potted blue-green cypress
July 26, 2008 - I received a small 14" potted blue-green cypress for Christmas 2007. Kept it in a bright window, not direct sun. It was doing great until two weeks ago when it started turning brown from the center. ...
view the full question and answer

Need to know how to plant trees to create a windbreak in Ashburn, VA.
May 06, 2010 - I want to know how to plant trees to create windbreaks. I live on a slope of a hill, the front of the house is steep and the back of the house has neighbors in a cul de sac. I swear I live in a wind...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center