Regularity: Regularly occurring
Virginia west to southern Indiana, southern Illinois, and eastern
Kansas; south to Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, south-central Texas,
and northeastern Mexico [8,10].
Regional Distribution in the Western United States
This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):
14 Great Plains
Occurrence in North America
MS MO NC OK SC TN TX VA WV MEXICO
Deciduous holly is a native, large shrub or small tree. The average
maximum height at maturity is 33 feet (10 m) [8,10,42]. The bark is
smooth or slightly roughened [10,30]. The fruit is a four- to
seven-seeded berry .
The national champion (1981), located in South Carolina, is 3 feet
(9 m) in circumference and 42 feet (12.8 m) in height .
Catalog Number: US 1837490
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Botany
Verification Degree: ; Status verified from secondary sources
Preparation: Pressed specimen
Collector(s): R. K. Godfrey & R. M. Tryon
Year Collected: 1939
Locality: Floodplain forest, Santee River, 3 miles northeast of Pineville., Berkeley, South Carolina, United States, North America
Key Plant Community Associations
Deciduous holly is not a dominant or indicator species in habitat
typings. It occurs in a variety of cover types and has a number of
associated species. The most common overstory and midstory associates
not previously mentioned include red maple (Acer rubrum), winged elm
(Ulmus alata), blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), southern red oak (Quercus
falcata), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), tree huckleberry
(Vaccinium arboreum), American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), American
holly (Ilex opaca), and yaupon (I. vomitoria). Understory associates
include rusty blackhaw (Viburnum rufidulum), Alabama supplejack
(Berchemia scandens), trumpetcreeper (Campis radicans), grapes (Vitis
spp.), and greenbriers (Smilax spp.) [16,18,21,23,26,27,34,37,40].
Habitat: Cover Types
This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):
More info for the terms: hardwood, swamp
46 Eastern redcedar
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
73 Southern redcedar
74 Cabbage palmetto
75 Shortleaf pine
76 Shortleaf pine - oak
78 Virginia pine - oak
79 Virginia pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
82 Loblolly pine - hardwood
83 Longleaf pine - slash pine
84 Slash pine
87 Sweet gum - yellow-poplar
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
89 Live oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
97 Atlantic white-cedar
98 Pond pine
102 Baldcypress - tupelo
103 Water tupelo - swamp tupelo
104 Sweetbay - swamp tupelo - redbay
woodlands, wet thickets, and along streams. It occurs infrequently on
well-drained wooded slopes or sandy pineland ridges [3,8,43]. It is
occasional in hydric hammocks in Florida . It occurs in elevations
of up to 1,180 feet (360 m) throughout its distribution .
This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):
FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak - pine
FRES15 Oak - hickory
FRES16 Oak - gum - cypress
FRES17 Elm - ash - cottonwood
Habitat: Plant Associations
This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):
K083 Cedar glades
K084 Cross Timbers
K089 Black Belt
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest
Fire Management Considerations
The mean, ash-free caloric value for deciduous holly leaves is 5,311
calories per gram. This value can be used in calculations to predict
heat release during fire on sites with deciduous holly litter .
Plant Response to Fire
The number of deciduous holly stems increased following prescribed
spring fires in loblolly-shortleaf pine stands. Fruit production
increased following fire, but since there was also a large increase in
fruit production on control plots, it was difficult to separate the
effects of fire from other effects .
Numerous deciduous holly seedlings occured on loblolly-shortleaf pine
plots that received two prescribed fire treatments . Nine years
after wildfire in a loblolly pine community, deciduous holly did not
occur on plots that had undergone surface fire only. Plots where fire
crowning occurred were colonized by seedlings resulting from
animal-dispersed seed .
Immediate Effect of Fire
Deciduous holly is damaged, top-killed, or killed by light- or
moderate-severity fires [27,36]. After two prescribed fires in
loblolly-shortleaf pine (Pinus echinata) stands, deciduous holly
exhibited moderate mortality (up to 50 percent) after fires in cut-over
sawtimber-sized stands, and low mortality after fires in pulpwood-sized
timber . High mortality (up to 100 percent) of stems less than 1
inch (2.54 cm) in diameter occurred after winter prescribed fire in a
slash pine plantation .
Tall shrub, adventitious-bud root crown
Initial-offsite colonizer (off-site, initial community)
Deciduous holly grows in a number of habitats, some of which may be
subject to fire. Some resistance to fire is conferred by the ability to
sprout after top-kill. Its main fire adaptation is the ability to
colonize disturbed soils through animal-dispersed seed .
More info for the term: hardwood
Facultative Seral Species
Deciduous holly is found in all successional stages. It colonizes areas
that have been disturbed by fire, and it is found in old-growth
bottomland hardwood forests [27,25].
Deciduous holly was abundant in the third and fourth years after removal
of a young green ash (Fraxinus pensylvanica)-American elm (Ulmus
americana) stand .
Deciduous holly produces abundant, light seeds that are dispersed by
frugivores. In bottomland hardwood forests in Texas, first-year
seedling survivorship was good. Seedling survival increases with
distance from a conspecific or sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) adult.
Deciduous holly seedlings grow slowly, about 0.4 to 0.8 inch (1-2 cm)
per year .
Growth Form (according to Raunkiær Life-form classification)
Life History and Behavior
Deciduous holly flowers from March to May . The fruits ripen in
September and persist until the following spring . Seedling
emergence occurs before spring canopy development in early February, and
continues through May .
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Ilex decidua
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Ilex decidua
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure
Deciduous holly is moderately tolerant to periodic flooding. Mature
trees can withstand flooding of up to 35 percent of the growing season.
Saplings have survived 105 days of flooding from March to July .
Near Alton, Illinois, deciduous holly maintained vigorous growth through
4 years of continuous flooding, but declined in the fifth year . It
is more likely to survive in frequently flooded plots than is common
persimmon (Diospyros virginiana) or elms (Ulmus spp.) .
Deciduous holly can supress regeneration of timber species .
Control: Deciduous holly is susceptible to stem injection of 2,4-D and
glyphosate [10,22]. Deciduous holly seedling counts were highest on
bottomland hardwood sites that had been harvested and site-prepared by
herbicide stem injection of all stems larger than 2 inches (5 cm) d.b.h.
The lowest numbers of deciduous holly seedlings occurred on sites that
had been harvested and site-prepared by shearing . When managing
for white-tailed deer, burning or slashing deciduous holly stems is
preferable to herbicide application; the sprouts resulting from those
treatments provide deer browse .
Deciduous holly is a good choice in plantings for wildlife; individual
plant fruit production is consistent from year to year, and a high
percentage (greater than 70 percent) of individuals bear fruit .
Increase: Production of deciduous holly browse was highest under medium-
thinning intensity in loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantations .
Deciduous holly can be propagated by cuttings .
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Importance to Livestock and Wildlife
birds, including eastern bluebirds, wild turkeys, and quail. They are
also eaten by white-tailed deer [10,13]. White-tailed deer and cattle
browse both leaves and twigs .
Distinguishing features of this species are crenate leaf margins and fruiting pedicels that are 2–8 mm long. Its "distinctive leaf shape... is less variable than other species of holly". Leaves are obovate, simple, alternating, deciduous, and grow to 2.5-7.5 cm long.
Distribution and ecology
Ilex decidua is a common plant, growing in the US in Alabama, Arkansas, Washington, D.C., Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
It prefers land in floodplains and the margins of swamps or lakes, and grows at elevations up to about 360 m. Other plant species with which possumhaw is associated include water tupelo (Nyssa aquatica), overcup oak (Quercus lyrata), bald cypress (Taxodium distichum), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) and hackberry (Celtis spp.).
Because of the attractive "berries", the tree is used as a winter ornamental plant, and branches are collected for use as Christmas decorations. The wood is not useful commercially because of the tree's small size.
- Duncan, Wilbur H. and Marion B. Duncan (1988). Trees of the Southeastern United States. Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. pp. 304–305. ISBN 0-8203-1469-2.
- Brown, Claud L.; L. Katherine Kirkman (1990). Trees of Georgia and Adjacent States. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press. pp. 178–179. ISBN 0-88192-148-3.
- "NPIN: Ilex decidua (Possumhaw)". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "PLANTS Profile for Ilex decidua (possumhaw)". Natural Resources Conservation Service. United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "Ilex decidua information from NPGS/GRIN". Germplasm Resources Information Network - (GRIN) [Online Database]. USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program, National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
- "FDEP Featured Plant: Florida Hollies". Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
Names and Taxonomy
The currently accepted scientific name for deciduous holly is Ilex
decidua Walt. . There are no accepted subspecies. Named varieties are as
Ilex decidua var. decidua
I. d. var. longipes (Chapm. ex Trel.) Ahles
I. d. var. curtissii Fern.
I. curtissii (Fern) Small
I. longipes Chapm.
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