Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
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

Leafing out problems with oaks in Towson MD
June 02, 2012 - 3 native 5-year-old oaks kept old leaves until March and are not leafing by the end of May. The few leaves that have emerged are shriveled. WHAT'S WRONG?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a windbreak on a slope in OH
April 20, 2011 - Have property at the top of a valley with a steep drop off. Would like to know native to NE Ohio ground covers, grasses perennials, and not too tall trees for windbreak that will prevent erosion. The ...
view the full question and answer

Why all the acorns from Austin
November 03, 2010 - What's the explanation for the huge crop of acorns falling from my live oak trees this fall. Do you recommend I dump them in my composter or just throw them in the flower beds? Thanking you in adv...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Saucer Magnolia in Eatontown, NJ.
January 12, 2013 - Adult Saucer Magnolia (tulip tree). Branches were getting heavy to where they were ready to break. I pruned them back leaving 1 to 3 inch diameter cuts on many branches. Should I put something on th...
view the full question and answer

Lopidea texana nymphs and adults feeding on Mountain Laurel in March
April 04, 2006 - What is the species name of the bright red bug (Miridae) nymphs and adults that are feeding on Texas Mountain Laurel leaves at this time (March 24) at the Wildflower Center?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.