Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Possumhaw’s time to shine again

with 24 comments

Possumhaw with Dense Fruit 0351

While walking along the trail that parallels the south shore of Lady Bird Lake yesterday afternoon I spied some possumhaws, Ilex decidua, with lots of little fruits on them. This iPhone picture lets you see the colorful view but you’ll have to imagine feeling the 72° (22° C) that the temperature got up to.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2015 at 5:25 AM

24 Responses

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  1. A very pleasant sight on a very pleasant day. We were 32C and we felt as warm as those berries look.


    January 19, 2015 at 6:26 AM

  2. Steve, these are always so beautiful. After living here almost seven years, for the first time ever, I have found several specimens here in N. Alabama. Most were found on the edges of the woods near the highways. No lovely blue skies to highlight their color here. Just a dingy, dark, deciduous backdrop. But the berries’ color pops here too. Stunning, actually, on an overcast day. I have collected some seeds to try to grow them. I have read this is a two year investment of time and effort. I’ll report back, well, that is, unless I forget where I buried them. 😉


    January 19, 2015 at 10:55 AM

    • It’s good to hear that after seven years you finally found some of these. I’d send you some blue sky to put behind them but I don’t know how to pack it up in a way that a delivery service would accept. Actually we’ve had mostly overcast skies here too for a month, so the sunshine of the last few days brought lots of people out yesterday to enjoy the balmy Sunday.

      Let’s hope for success with your planting. Even if you forget where the seeds went, the berries in a winter a few years down the line from now should mark the spot, at least for any resulting trees that are female.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 2:54 PM

  3. Ah, I believe this is what is known in the “trade” as a frame filler.

    We’re thawing out at 37°F right now but with a chilling wind. The built up ice is pretty treacherous with a layer of melt-water sitting on top. Murphy and I just had a slippery yet pleasant walk.

    Steve Gingold

    January 19, 2015 at 10:58 AM

    • I’ve filled many a frame with possumhaws in winter, and a better subject is hard to find. I know a winter day at 72° must sound like a contradiction to you, but even in December, January, and February here the temperature always gets into the 70s at least occasionally. If only you could reverse the digits in your 37°…

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 2:59 PM

  4. Very funny 🙂
    There are Ilex verticillata growing in a bog near here, that get covered with red berries. The leaves drop, and there are all the red berries, like magic. Then the Cedar waxwings arrive…


    January 19, 2015 at 10:59 AM

    • Glad you felt amused, even if you didn’t feel the outdoors at 72°.

      I’ve seen cedar waxwings denude possumhaws of their fruit, so it’s not surprising to hear you say that they treat Ilex verticillata in the same way. Let’s hope they at least let you enjoy seeing your winterberries for a while before taking all the red away.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 3:08 PM

      • Me too, although watching them eat is a treat in itself. They are so sweet, passing berries to each other and murmuring together.
        We are hovering around 35 degrees here, so not too bad.


        January 20, 2015 at 9:08 AM

        • Here’s a wonderful short piece about something I’ve seen, with cedar waxwings, robins, and other birds. The berries may vary, but the effect is the same. Bottoms Berries Up!


          January 21, 2015 at 9:11 PM

          • That’s a good article indeed. I’ve heard about intoxicated birds and think I saw one in a video once, but never in real life.

            Steve Schwartzman

            January 22, 2015 at 7:48 AM

  5. Love those vibrant colors against the blue sky…


    January 19, 2015 at 11:32 AM

  6. What a gorgeous shot!!


    January 19, 2015 at 5:16 PM

    • A densely fruited possumhaw is such a sight in its own right that I can’t take much credit for the shot beyond the framing, and then also a little for letting the world see what we have in these trees.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 19, 2015 at 5:22 PM

  7. oh that is gorgeous, and i had forgotten about this species! i love living in tropical america, yet photos like this make me remember things i’d forgotten!

    Playamart - Zeebra Designs

    January 21, 2015 at 7:55 AM

    • I know what you mean. During my two years in Honduras I missed certain aspects of life in the United States, and especially some of the cultural things I was used to from New York.

      In Austin I look forward to the possumhaws each January. This past Sunday we were out walking for the exercise so I didn’t have my “real” camera with me, but the phone did a good enough job.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 21, 2015 at 10:22 AM

  8. So beautiful. While I was working on my last post, I found this in a TSHA Online article about the Karankawa:

    “Karankawa ceremonialism centered around gatherings known as “mitotes,” which were held for a variety of purposes, each involving different activities. The ceremonies often included dances and the consumption of an intoxicating beverage brewed from the parched leaves of the yaupon (Ilex cassine or vomitoria), a small shrublike tree native to south Texas.”

    I’d say your photo’s as intoxicating as anything the Karankawa could brew up.


    January 21, 2015 at 9:07 PM

    • I don’t remember ever reading about an intoxicating beverage made from yaupon, but I’ve drunk a tea made from roasted yaupon leaves, which happen to contain caffeine. You can even buy some from a small company run by two women in Cat Spring, Texas:


      In any case, you’re right that the sight of a bedecked possumhaw like this is as intoxicating as any beverage.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 22, 2015 at 7:40 AM

  9. […] could show you (and have shown you as recently as January 19) close views of the dense clusters of little red drupes produced by a native tree called possumhaw, […]

  10. […] The first photograph shows a fruiting yaupon tree, Ilex vomitoria, an evergreen relative of the possumhaw you’ve more often seen […]

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