Question: Why don’t my hollies have berries?

Answer: Many hollies have male and female flowers on separate plants, so the male half of the population of that species or variety will never have any fruit. Yaupon and possumhaw hollies are two classic examples. If you look at their flowers in the spring very closely with a hand lens, you’ll see that each plant has only one type of flower. Either the flowers will have pollen (male), or each (female) flower will have a primordial fruit that will look like a tiny bowling pin in the bottom of each flower. Other hollies, such as burford, willowleaf (needlepoint) and Nellie R. Stevens, have both male and female flowers on each plant. Every plant of these types should have fruit. There are other reasons that a holly doesn’t have berries, however. It may be that you have poor bee activity in your neighborhood at the time the plants are blooming. Unless the pollen gets transferred to the female flowers, there will obviously be no fruit. It’s also possible that you don’t have any male plants blooming at the same time in the general vicinity (within a block or two). Late freezes will sometimes catch the plants in flower or fruit, ruining that year’s crop of berries. Finally, if the plants grow really vigorously, they may conceal their berries.

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