January 2023 - American Holly
Common Name: American Holly
Botanical Name: Ilex opaca
Native Range: Native to New Jersey and throughout central and northeastern North America, in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 9.
Height: Its mature size varies, depending on its location. Its typical mature height is 40- 50 feet.
Spread: Crown is 25 to 50 feet wide in ideal conditions.
Form: Grows in a pyramidal shape.
Growth Rate: Slow to moderate growth rate depending on location. Described by horticulturist Michael Dirr as a slow starter.
Sun: Thrives in full sun but can tolerate part shade. The part shade may impact the overall growth.
Soil: Prefers moist, acidic, loose, well-drained soil.
Leaf Description: Alternate, simple evergreen leaves ranging from one half to three inches in length. American Holly maintains their green color year-round. Leaves are approximately 2”-3” long with spines all over.
Fall Color: Evergreen
Flower Description: Produces greenish or cream flowers with a notably pleasant aroma. American Holly is dioecious; male and female flowers are on separate trees. The male flowers are larger and more colorful than the female flowers.
Fruit: Female trees contain red berries that ripen in October that persist through the winter. Male and Female trees planted in proximity are needed for fruit display.
Bark Description: Relatively smooth gray bark.
Wildlife Benefit: Mature trees provide shelter for birds and small wildlife. The berries are a winter favorite of birds.
Tolerates: Tolerates a wide variety of soil and Princeton deer populations.
Possible Disease and Insect Problems: Leaf chlorosis in high Ph, holly leaf miner, holly scale, and spittlebugs can be a problem.
Where to be found on municipal property:
- American Holly can be found throughout the Gulick Preserve entering at the dead end Terhune section behind Dodds Lane.
- Needs shelter from the drying effects of wind.
- Native Americans used berries for buttons and barter.
- Wood can be used for lathe work.
- Used in groupings, screens, and as a specimen plant in the home landscape.
- Said to be a favorie of George Washinton. More than a dozen hollies he planted are still evident today in Mount Vernon.
- Raw material for Christmas wreaths.
- American Holly wood has been used to make a variety of funiture, bowls, and canes.
- There are more than 1000 cultivars of American Holly.
- American Holly is the state tree of Delaware.
- Superstition once surrounded American Holly. It was once believed that planting hollies near buildings would provide protection from witchcraft and lightening.
- Once believed that the flowers of holly could be used to turn water to into ice.
- Holly flowers once represented hope and wealth.
Dirr, M. A.; Manual of Woody Landscape Plants. 2019
ww.uky.edu › hort › American-HollyAmerican Holly | Department of Horticulture
www.arborday.org › trees › treeGuideAmerican Holly Tree on the Tree Guide at arborday.org