- Common Name(s):
- American Holly
- Greenleaf , Fallow , William Hawkins , Kleimi, 'Howard' has few spines, 'Crooneburg' is more upright, narrower
- Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Trees
American holly is a native plant that ranges from as far north as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and south into Florida and Texas. It grows naturally in a wide range of soils and climates from the harsh winters in the mountains where the soil may be shallow to the heat and humidity of the beach with its shallow and salty water table. The best growth and largest plants can be found in the rich bottomlands near rivers and swamps. However, it cannot tolerate being flooded for an extended amount of time.
This majestic tree can reach heights of 30 to 50 feet with an overall shape that resembles a pyramid. The younger the tree is the more pyramidal the overall shape will be. As the tree matures the shape becomes less pyramidal.
When the pilgrims first landed the spiny, evergreen leaves and red berries reminded them of their native English Holly. They began using this plant in holiday decorations and gave it the nickname Christmas holly. American holly, like many other hollies, is dioecious, meaning it has two houses. This means some plants only have female flowers, while other plants only have male flowers. Both male and female plants are needed to get the berries, but berries are only found on female plant. The tiny white flowers of this holly occur around June and are a good for attracting honeybees to the area.
Uses for this large tree that may have limbs all the way to the ground include privacy screens and specimen plantings. It doesn’t make a good plant for small yards, but can be a beautiful plant when given space to grow.
by Shawn Banks
- Evergreen tree; leaves alternate, simple, with spiny margins, glossy green; flowers small, white, in leaf axils; fruit a red (or rarely yellow) berry. Berries attracts birds; light gray bark; pyramidal shape; dark green, spiny, leathery leaves; single or multitrunked; larval food for Henry's elfin butterfly; native; must have both sexes for berry production; single or multitrunked; tolerates air pollution.
- 30-60 ft.
- Small white flowers in late spring; red fruit maturing in fall and lasting into winter
- Sun to partial shade; moist, well-drained soil; avoid extremely dry, windy, and wet sites
- Upright; conical; pyramidal in youth; with age open, irregular with high branches at wide angles
- Sun to partial shade; moist to dry soil
- Red berries on female plants
- USA, NC
- Poison Part:
- Berries in large quantity
- Poison Delivery Mode:
- Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
- Toxic Principle:
- Illicin, possibly saponic glycosides, and triterpenoids
- CAUSES ONLY LOW TOXICITY IF EATEN.
- Found in:
- Forest or natural areas in low woods; landscape as cultivated ornamental evergreen tree or street tree
- 18-35 ft.
- Growth Rate:
- 1.5-3.5 in. alternate, simple leaf; dark green, spiny, leathery
NCCES plant id: 492