Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Snow-covered possumhaw

with 17 comments

As yet another picture from January 10th, and perhaps the last, here’s a fruitful possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) I spotted on someone’s front yard half a mile from home. The species name tells us that possumhaws shed their leaves in the winter, but some—this one, for instance—take a good deal longer to do so than others.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2021 at 4:40 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , , , , ,

17 Responses

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  1. Shouldn’t that be Opossumhaw?

    Jason Frels

    January 27, 2021 at 6:37 AM

    • As possum is a shortening of the original opossum (an English version of the original Virginia Algonquian name for the animal), I thought it likely that some people would once have used the term opossumhaw. I went looking and in the 1905 book at


      found opossum haw as the colloquial name for several Viburnum species. I suspect the term would have been applied to Ilex decidua as well.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2021 at 7:21 AM

  2. Thanks to their reluctance to shed their leaves you were able to capture this good-looking combination of red, white and green.

    Peter Klopp

    January 27, 2021 at 8:42 AM

  3. That is a beautiful Christmasy composition, Steve.

    We had a brief snow here yesterday afternoon. It’s all melted and back to green, but is down in the 30s so far today.

    Lavinia Ross

    January 27, 2021 at 11:37 AM

  4. A gorgeous photo. Looks like winter!! My possumhaw only has a few berries now, as it’s in lots of shade, but it once produced bountifully like that one. They’re beautiful trees and wonderful for all sorts of wildlife.


    January 27, 2021 at 11:59 AM

    • It was Austin putting on a one-day imitation of real winter—and I was sure happy for that one day. I didn’t know that a once-bountiful possumhaw could retreat into parsimony, fruit-wise. From what you say, shade is the culprit. I wonder whether setting up mirrors to cast light onto the tree would cause it to produce more fruit again.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 27, 2021 at 12:52 PM

  5. No need at all to hem and haw:
    Kudos for working in the raw
    And sharing with us what you saw
    Before it had a chance to thaw.


    January 27, 2021 at 8:46 PM

  6. As striking as this is with snow, it’s going to be just as eye-catching once the leaves fall; that’s as good a crop of fruits as I’ve seen this year. On the other hand, the addition of snow makes this resemble a Christmas card even more. If only there were a snow-covered possum to go with it.


    January 28, 2021 at 9:05 AM

    • This tree still looked similar (minus the snow, of course) when I saw it last week; I’ll try to check it out again this week. It’s among the best-fruited possumhaws I’ve found this season but I have seen a couple of other good ones. Somehow I don’t think I’ll ever see a snow-covered possum.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 28, 2021 at 9:30 AM

  7. Out here our beeches maintain their leaves through the winter, golden brown to start and a bleached white before shedding just before spring arrives. Some of our oaks carry their leaves into winter as well. Neither have gorgeous red fruits as your possumhaw does.

    Steve Gingold

    January 31, 2021 at 6:31 PM

    • So from what you say it may not be so uncommon for deciduous trees to delay dropping their leaves till well through the winter. And yes, possumhaws produce gorgeous little fruits, even if not always as dense as in this specimen.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 31, 2021 at 7:59 PM

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