Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Eastern red cedar for indoor Christmas tree
November 06, 2007 - I would love to have a live b&b or container tree for a Christmas tree, then plant it in the ground after Christmas. Would a Eastern Cedar survive if I brought it inside for a couple of weeks before p...
view the full question and answer

Walnut tree root coming through basement floor in Portland, OR
February 10, 2009 - I have a walnut tree root coming through my basement floor. I need advice as to what will it do to tree when I remove the root, like another root though a different part of my home. It is a large tree...
view the full question and answer

Leaves dropping on native Texas Mountain Laurel in San Antonio
September 20, 2008 - Please help. We have a beautiful TX Mountain Laurel in our front yard. This year the leaves are dropping like snow in the north. What do you think is wrong with our tree?
view the full question and answer

Are white pine trees toxic to horses?
May 31, 2009 - Are white pine trees toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Water-loving evergreen for Chicago
April 21, 2008 - Is there a water loving evergreen that will do well in the Chicago weather?
view the full question and answer

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