Quick Facts

Species Type

Native

Size

15-25 feet tall

Habitat

Wooded areas; 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

Conservation Status

Stable

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 grows 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 this age, they will begin producing greenish-white flowers. Pollination is a necessary step for reproduction, and is accomplished 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.
  • Because they bear fruit year-round, the American holly is a valuable source of winter food for deer, squirrels, birds and other small animals.
  • 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