Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


with 25 comments

Possumhaw; click for greater clarity and subtlety of color.

One of the colorful joys of winter in central Texas is possumhaw, Ilex decidua. This tree is indeed deciduous, and after it drops its leaves* in December or January its many small red fruits are a sight to behold, especially against a deep blue sky. Those fruits usually persist through the rest of the winter and into the early spring, disappearing only when new leaves appear — unless birds or other animals make a feast of them earlier.

For more information about Ilex decidua, and to see a state-clickable map of the places in the southeastern United States where this tree grows, you can visit the USDA website.

For those of you interested in photography as a craft, points 3, 8, and the newly added 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.


* You can see a few remaining leaves about to fall off at the bottom left.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2012 at 5:05 AM

25 Responses

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  1. So vividly red!

    The Background Story

    January 5, 2012 at 5:50 AM

    • These were, though the fruits can be various shades of red or less often orange and rarely verge almost to yellow.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 8:05 AM

  2. Those vibrantly red berries against the blue sky makes for such a great photo.


    January 5, 2012 at 6:05 AM

    • I was happy with the conditions. As you say, the clear sky helped to bring out their vibrancy.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 8:11 AM

  3. Amazing. Thank you, with my love, nia


    January 5, 2012 at 7:10 AM

  4. Very nice shot, with the contrast between the sky and berries. Cheers!


    January 5, 2012 at 7:41 AM

  5. Wow…simply spectacular!!!


    January 5, 2012 at 9:33 AM

    • Thanks, David. The USDA map shows possumhaw growing as far northeast as Maryland, so if you’re in southeastern Pennsylvania you may get to see this sort of display one of these days without having to travel too far. Or you can hop on a plane to Austin.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 9:49 AM

  6. Great Colors !! Great Photo

  7. Thanks for stopping by my blog. I haven’t visited yours for a while but everything here is just a beautiful as I remember it last time. I particularly like the new techniques page, very helpful, thanks. 🙂


    January 5, 2012 at 1:53 PM

    • And thanks for the return visit.

      As for putting up the techniques page: once a teacher, always a teacher.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 1:59 PM

  8. Great color contrast and a nice look into the tree, Steve.

    Steve Gingold

    January 5, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    • Yes, the color contrast gets to me year after year when I see this tree doing its cold-weather thing.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 4:57 PM

  9. Hi. I love the holly’s. We have Ilex verticillata here (Canada Holly or Winterberry). I love the name Possumhaw… and your photo is beautiful. Jane

    jane tims

    January 5, 2012 at 7:03 PM

    • I see that that species, which looks quite similar to the one here, is found in much of eastern North America. Winterberry is an appropriate name for it, and for ours too, even if possumhaw sounds folksier. Whether possums really favor it I don’t know, but I have seen cedar waxwings feasting on its fruit.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 8:33 PM

  10. Hi Steve,

    I identified a shrub at my Dad’s place in KY as possumhaw a couple of years ago. That was when I was learning to id plants. I ought to revisit his shrub to confirm the id now. I don’t usually get to go there in winter but I suppose it would be pretty easy to confirm by the berries. I don’t remember any when I saw it in the summer. I’ll make it a point to look for it again in June.


    January 5, 2012 at 8:32 PM

    • Jane Tims in the previous comment mentioned Ilex verticillata, which is pretty similar to Ilex decidua. Both are shown growing in Kentucky, so you’d probably need a botanical key to distinguish them. Good luck deciding.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 5, 2012 at 8:38 PM

      • As I recall, the only thing I was going by back then was the leaf shape. Meaning… I was probably wrong!


        January 5, 2012 at 10:25 PM

  11. Looks like fireworks.


    January 6, 2012 at 5:36 AM

    • A new association: somehow, even with its bright red little fruits, I’d never thought about possumhaw as fireworks.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 6, 2012 at 6:02 AM

  12. […] been on my way home from taking pictures along Bull Creek when I spotted a well-caparisoned possumhaw standing out against the clear blue sky, so I slowed down, made a U-turn, and pulled back around […]

  13. […] often enough photographed possumhaw fruits against a clear blue sky, and I’m certainly fond of that color contrast, but in today’s picture I like the way […]

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