Ilex opaca Ait.
American holly, Christmas holly
Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)
The height of American holly or Christmas holly ranges from 25 ft. to as tall as 60 ft. in the warmer parts of its range. The stout, stiff branches of this pyramidal evergreen
bear dark green, non-glossy, spine-tipped leaves. New growth finally pushes off the old leaves in spring. Bright red berries occur on the female plants. A shorter, multi-trunked form may grow in lower-light situations. The bark
is a light gray color.
fruiting branches from wild and planted trees are popular Christmas decorations. Many improved varieties are grown for ornament, shade, and hedges. You must have both a male and female plant to have berries, or at least have the opposite
sex growing wild somewhere nearby. The male must be the same holly species as the female and bloom at the same time. This is a very slow-growing tree. The whitish, fine-textured wood is especially suited for inlays in cabinetwork, handles, carvings, and rulers, and can be dyed various shades, even black. Many kinds of songbirds, gamebirds, and mammals eat the bitter berries of this and other hollies, but the fruits are poisonous to humans.
Image Gallery: 11 photo(s) available
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Tree Leaf Retention: Evergreen Leaf Complexity: Simple Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous Leaf Texture:
Smooth Breeding System:
, Dioecious Size Notes:
In the westernmost portions of its range, height is normally from 15-25 feet, with 50-foot trees occasional. In moister regions, averages 40-50 feet, with occasional 75-100 foot trees. Leaf:
Red, sometimes orange or yellow 1/4 to 1/3 inch Size Class:
12-36 ft. , 36-72 ft.
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White , Green
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May , Jun
Bloom Notes: Tiny flowers
AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MS , MO , NJ , NY , NC , OH , OK , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VA , WV , DC Native Distribution:
VA to n. FL, w. to s.e. MO & e. TX; also coastal areas from MA to MD Native Habitat:
Shaded woods and stream and river banks. Uplands and lowlands. Primarily an understory tree. USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsWater Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: Low , Medium
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist, well-drained, acidic soils. Acid-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam. Not so good in clay.
Conditions Comments: For clay soils in areas of high humidity (like Houston), cultivar Savannah is recommended.
BenefitUse Ornamental: Long-living, Understory, Screens, Fruits ornamental, Attractive, Mass planting
Use Wildlife: Berries attract many bird and small mammal species. Also provides cover and nesting sites. Larval plant for Henrys Elfin butterfly.
Use Other: White wood used in furniture, woodworking, and other products.
Warning: All Ilex species may be somewhat toxic if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Henrys Elfin butterfly.
Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)
is a larval host and/or nectar source for: