- Common Name(s):
- American holly, Holly
- 'Greenleaf' , 'Fallow' , 'William Hawkins', 'Kleimi', 'Howard' - has few spines, 'Crooneburg' - more upright, narrower
- Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Trees
The Ilex opaca range is from as far north as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania and south into Florida and Texas.
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. It can be single or multi-trunked.
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.
The bark is gray-white in color and may be splotched or warty.
This plant is moderately salt tolerant.
Regions: Mountain, Piedmont, Coastal Plains
Seasons of Interest:
Bloom: Spring Fruit/Seed/Nut: Fall
Wildlife Value: The American holly is highly deer resistant. It is a host plant for the Henry's Elfin butterfly and provides nectar for adult butterflies and other insects. Its fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail, white-tailed deer, squirrels and other small mammals. Honeybees are attracted to its tiny white flowers. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi. This tree provides cover during the winter.
Play Value: Wildlife Enhancement
Notes: More likely 15-30' under normal landscape conditions
Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Potential insect problems include holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly, and scale. Potential disease problems include leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot and powdery mildew. Plants are also susceptible to leaf drop, leaf scorch and chlorosis (yellowing of leaves in high pH soils).
Seed: Berry-like drupe
- 30-60 ft.
- The American Holly is dioecious (male and female flowers are on separate trees). It has greenish-white flowers bloom May-June (male flowers in 3-12 flowered clusters and female flowers solitary or in 2's or 3's). It also produces bright red or orange fruits (drupes to 1/4- 1/2" diameter) which ripen in fall on pollinated female trees, and persist on the tree through the winter. It must have both sexes in order to produce its fruit.
- The American Holly is easily grown in average, consistently moist, acidic, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. The leaves typically yellow in alkaline soils. It will tolerate a broad range of soil conditions, but will not tolerate flooding or soils saturated with moisture. For optimum growth avoid poorly drained soils. Its best growth in the wild usually occurs in rich bottomlands and swamp margins. It will not do well in locations not protected from cold winter winds. Part afternoon shade is best in hot summer climates. Being situated in too much shade will cause the plant foliage to lose density. 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.
- 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:
- This species is easily identified because it is the only native U.S. holly with spiny green leaves and bright red berries. Its thick, leathery, alternate, simple, deep green leaves (2-4" long) have spiny marginal teeth.
NCCES plant id: 492