Christmas Berries

American Holly Berries

American Holly Berries

My neighbor’s American Holly (Ilex opaca)  tree has some beautiful berries on it just now. You might remember from earlier posts that American Holly is one of those species with separate male and female plants. Berries, of course, will only form on the female plants.

Female flowers of American Holly

Female flowers of American Holly

I took this photograph of the female flowers on the same tree last spring. Female flowers have a large green ovary in the center with a fuzzy-looking stigma at its tip. There are four nonfunctional anthers sticking out to the sides. They obviously produce some sort of nectar from the base of the ovary that is attractive to ants. In order for these flowers to produce berries, they must receive pollen from a male plant.

Male flowers of American Holly

Male flowers of American Holly

These are male flowers on an American Holly tree growing along the driveway in our woods. They look quite different from the female flowers pictured above. The anthers are covered with pollen, and  the ovary is non-functional and has been reduced to a small yellow bump.

Quite a few insect species are known to pollinate hollies. Bees, wasps, night-flying moths and ants can all transfer pollen.

 

 


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