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Ilex cornuta

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Ilex fortunei
Phonetic Spelling
EYE-leks kor-NOO-tuh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Chinese Holly is a holly from Asia where it is often found in ravines and hills and alongside mountain paths. In the landscape, it can be grown as a hedge up to 15 feet tall or trained to be a small tree up to 25 feet tall.  Cultivars usually range from 3 feet to 10 feet in height.  The unusual rectangular leaves resemble bull horns.  The specific epithet "cornuta' means horn-shaped.  The flowers are not very showy, but they are pleasantly scented. The plant is dioecious (meaning individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). It is pollinated by bees.

This holly is tolerant of most soils except poorly-drained ones and can be grown in full to partial sun. It is tolerant of heat and humidity and is drought tolerant once established, making it a good choice for the south. Prune in the late winter to control its size if needed. The fruit and evergreen leaves make for winter interest in the landscape. The spiny leaves make this a good choice for a barrier or privacy screen or use as an impenetrable hedge. It can also be planted as a specimen, used in small groups, or planted along a foundation. Mature plants do not tolerate root disturbance, so it is best to site the plant in its permanent position, preferably one that provides winter protection for the first year or two.

It has been known to escape cultivation and naturalize in some states, including North Carolina and Alabama.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: 

Holly leaf miner, scale, whitefly, and spider mites are occasional insect pests. Powdery mildew, leaf spot, leaf rot, and tar spot are potential disease problems.  However, it is resistant to Phytophthora root rot. Depending on their planting location this shrub can exhibit chlorosis, leaf drop, or leaf scorch from high pH soils. This plant does spread rapidly and has been listed by USDA as an invasive species in Georgia. 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Woodland Backyard Garden Walk
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Burford', 'Burfordii Nana', 'Carissa', 'Delcon', 'D'Or', 'Dwarf Burford', 'Needlepoint', 'O'Spring', 'Rotunda'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#shrub#wildlife plant#weedy#honey bees#nectar plant#winter interest#security plant#air pollution tolerant#hedges#specialized bees#privacy#deer resistant#spines#foundation planting#red fruits#chinese#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#food source winter#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#bee friendly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Burford', 'Burfordii Nana', 'Carissa', 'Delcon', 'D'Or', 'Dwarf Burford', 'Needlepoint', 'O'Spring', 'Rotunda'
Tags:
#evergreen#small tree#fragrant flowers#heat tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#shrub#wildlife plant#weedy#honey bees#nectar plant#winter interest#security plant#air pollution tolerant#hedges#specialized bees#privacy#deer resistant#spines#foundation planting#red fruits#chinese#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#evergreen shrub#evergreen tree#food source winter#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#bee friendly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    cornuta
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Eastern China, Korea
    Distribution:
    North Carolina, Alabama, Kentucky
    Fire Risk Rating:
    medium flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    Fruits are attractive to birds. Flowers attract bees. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi.
    Play Value:
    Buffer
    Sound
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Phytophthora root rot
    Edibility:
    Use caution. Berries are slightly toxic to humans if eaten in quantity.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 8 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Erect
    Rounded
    Vase
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    High
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
    Appendage:
    Spines
    Thorns
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Shallow Rocky
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    1/3 inch fruits are bright to dull-red berry-like drupes. They are produced on female plants. Fruits persist into winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small, 4-parted, radial, axillary, dull-white flowers in late spring that are 1/4 to 1/3 of an inch. Male and female flowers are on different plants (dioecious). Fragrant but not showy.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Prickly
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblong
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Dark, glossy, green leaves above and yellow-green below. Leaves are alternate, spiny, coriaceous, and simple. 1 1/2 to 2 inches long, oblong-rectangular in shape with three strong spines on the apex and one or two spines at the base that can resemble bull horns. The apex is spinose, points downward, and terminates in a spine. Leaves have minute, dark, and triangular stipules.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Smooth gray bark becoming finely flakey with size.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Slender, green stems turning reddish-green in the winter, buds small, leaf scar with 1 bundle scar. Branchlets are dense.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Lawn
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Small groups
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Heat
    Humidity
    Pollution
    Problems:
    Spines/Thorns
    Weedy
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Minor toxicity. Ingestion may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other illness in humans.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Saponins
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits