American Holly

Ilex opaca

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in wooded areas, the American holly usually alongside streams and river banks. It is primarily an understory tree, preferring areas of low-light.

  • Range

    The American holly is found primarily in the southeast United States, from southern Pennsylvania to Florida. It grows in moist, wooded locations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Lifespan

    Up to 200 years

  • Status

    Stable

The American holly is an evergreen tree with stout, stiff branches and spine-tipped leaves. Female trees have small, bright red berries. It grows in moist areas throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Appearance

The American holly is an evergreen tree native to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Female plants grow bright red berries on their branches. The bark is smooth and a light white-grey color. Its spine-tipped leaves are green and leathery in texture. While the American holly normally maintains heights between 15 and 25 feet, it can reach heights of up to 60 feet when grown in a sufficiently moist location. Its trunk can reach a diameter of 20 inches.

Predators

Because they bear fruit year-round, the American holly is a valuable source of winter food for deer, squirrels, birds and other small animals.

Reproduction and Life Cycle

The American holly begins flowering in the springtime, generally between April and June. Only the females produce fruit, which ripen from September through December and remain on the tree through the winter. Trees begin producing seeds when they are between four to seven years old, at which point they will begin producing greenish-white flowers. Pollination is a necessary step for reproduction, and is accomplished mostly with the help of insects, including ants, bees and moths.

Did You Know?

  • The American holly is also known as the Christmas holly, evergreen holly, prickly holly, white holly and Yule Holly.
  • While many species of birds and mammals eat the American holly’s berries, the bitter fruit is poisonous to humans.
  • Delaware designated the American holly as the official state tree in 1939.
  • There are more than 1,000 cultivars of American holly in North America. However, not all of them are native.

Sources and Additional Information

Quick Facts

  • Species

    Native

  • Habitat

    Found in wooded areas, the American holly usually alongside streams and river banks. It is primarily an understory tree, preferring areas of low-light.

  • Range

    The American holly is found primarily in the southeast United States, from southern Pennsylvania to Florida. It grows in moist, wooded locations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Lifespan

    Up to 200 years

  • Status

    Stable