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Possumhaw: No Flashy Blooms, but Oh My Gosh, What Pleasure This Tree Brings Me!

possum haw

James and I have a small courtyard off our kitchen and master bath, thanks to an architect friend’s brilliant idea some 20 years ago. Once construction was complete, James laid out the courtyard with Mexican pavers and planting beds accented with containers of fern and blooming plants. Directly out from our kitchen window, he planted a Possumhaw (Ilex decidua) which can be seen from both the kitchen and master bath. It has been the perfect tree!

Possumhaw view out our kitchen window

Possumhaw is multi-trunked and considered an ornamental tree, in that it stays under 25′ (its actual finished height is around 15′). The birds love this tree! It produces red berries in the fall that the mockingbirds devour, and all kinds of migrating birds stop off in our courtyard to get water from our re-circulating birdbath and rest in our tree. It does lose about 3/4 of its leaves in the winter, but because the leaves are  small, it isn’t a chore to clean up. They can be expected to live 25-50 years and very hardy against cold and heat. I have never had to spray this tree for insects!

The birds love it!

I found some small outdoor iron birds, made in Portland, Oregon, at the Botanical Gardens in Portland. I love the way they adorn our tree…and… after a little research, I found the artist & manufacturer and was able to bring them to Gill’s! 

Another great choice, Yaupon Holly

A relative of Possumhaw is the Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria). We have one on the side of our house along Santa Fe Street. The Texas hill country is covered with Yaupon Holly; naturally, they grow under oak trees. They also grow to about 15′, have red berries, small leaves and yes, the birds love them!  And again, no bugs that I’ve found bother this tree either. 

I am quick to recommend both these trees. Planted in front of windows but far enough out to not catch the eave of your home, they bring nature indoors and can create nice filtered light for your interior, and for the icing on the cake, you get to watch the birds! 

-Sally Gill 

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