Possum haw, or deciduous holly, is usually a shrub with a spreading, open crown; it is sometimes a small tree. It is eye-catching in fall and winter with bright red berries.
Leaves are simple, alternate or in clusters on short spurs; 2–3 inches long, widest at the middle and tapering at both ends. Tip blunt, margin mostly with round or blunt teeth.
Bark is smooth, thin, mottled gray to brown, sometimes with numerous warty protuberances.
Twigs are drawn out, slender, often with many short spurlike lateral twigs, light to dark gray.
Flowers April–May. Some plants may be male, others female, or flowers may be perfect (containing both male and female parts). Petals 4–6, white, egg-shaped; stamens 4–6.
Fruits September–October. Globe-shaped berry; orange to red; ¼ inch across; solitary or 2 or 3 together; seeds usually 4, pale yellow. Berries persistent on branches most of the winter after leaves are shed. As with other hollies, only female trees produce berries.
Similar species: Missouri has 4 species in genus Ilex.