Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Two-fruit panorama

with 6 comments

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

Click for greater clarity and considerably larger size.

The little red fruits scattered throughout are on a possumhaw tree, Ilex decidua, which hadn’t yet lost its leaves. The clusters of little off-white fruits in the left half of the picture (you’ll probably have to click the image to enlarge it) are from poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans. At the far right of the photograph, the leaflets beginning to turn reddish atop a brown stalk are also poison ivy. Few people like this species, but you have to give it credit for versatility: it can grow as a low plant, a stalk, a bush, or even a vine that can climb tall tree trunks. I don’t know how an individual poison ivy plant “decides” which form to take.

Date: November 26. Place: near Bull Creek in northwest Austin.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 17, 2012 at 6:13 AM

6 Responses

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  1. I’m completely astonished. I had no idea poison ivy produced fruit. I’ve learned a new word, too – poison ivy produces “drupes”, single seeds encased in flesh, like a peach or cherry. (I discovered possumhaw produces drupes, too.) Also, I didn’t know poison ivy would climb. A whole lifetime of assumptions gone, in a single post!


    December 17, 2012 at 6:46 AM

    • Yes indeed, drupe is the correct technical term for what most of us non-technically (and incorrectly) grew up calling a berry. That’s why I titled this post “Two-fruit panorama” rather than using something with berry in it.

      As for poison ivy, I once called it protean because of the various forms it can take. Sometimes the climbing version really stands out—literally—on the trunk of a tree, to which the thickening vine has attached itself with hundreds of rootlets. That’s a common enough sight in the woods in my area. People who are tempted to touch or lean against trees are cautioned to be wary of an attached poison ivy vine, which can still cause a reaction even when no leaves are present, as is typical for the lower portion of one of these established vines.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 17, 2012 at 7:23 AM

  2. So these are the fruits of poison ivy.. they are nice though..
    I had also red berries on my blog yesterday and birds love them.


    December 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM

    • As you say, these little fruits support birds and other animals through the winter. People can’t eat the fruits of poison ivy, but many animals can. If circumstances allow, in the winter I’ll show a closer view of the possumhaw fruits, more along the lines of what you posted on your blog.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 17, 2012 at 7:44 PM

  3. The possum and yaupon holly are the last berries to go in my yard. Birds don’t seem to relish them as much but maybe there are lots of feeders out in my neighborhood. They eat the white berries of the poison ivy pretty fast. I find young poison ivy plants all over my yard in the spring which has to be dug up or it would overtake my property. It is all over the neighborhood so it is impossible to eradicate.


    December 17, 2012 at 11:45 PM

    • I’ve seen a flock of cedar waxwings make quick work of all the fruits on a possumhaw, but I’ve also been happy to find densely fruited possumhaws that stay red until the tree begins to leaf out in the early spring.

      Poison ivy is—unfortunately, as most people see it—one of our most prolific plants. There are places in Austin where it’s quite dense.

      Steve Schwartzman

      December 18, 2012 at 7:14 AM

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