American Holly

Holly flowers


As a broadleaf evergreen tree, the American holly is a symbol of the holiday season for its winter vitality and unique mix of red and green colors. These traits also make it a great addition to any urban site, where it can complement both deciduous and other needle-leafed evergreen trees.

This tree is eligible for a $50 Tree Rebate. If you’d like help with the planting, check out our RiverSmart Homes program.

More detail: American Holly’s Tree of the Month.

Common Name
American holly

Latin Name
Ilex opaca 

Alternate, simple, evergreen, elliptical, 2 to 4 inches long, spiny toothed margin, thickened and leathery, shiny dark green above, much paler below.

Dull, green-white male flowers, female flowers are solitary with a pleasant odor appearing in late spring.

Berry-like drupe, red or yellow when ripe; persist on tree until winter

Slender, with rust-colored pubescence; buds small reddish brown, pointed

Light gray and smooth regardless of size

The American holly has a thick crown and pyramidal form, usually with branches to the ground

Grows to around 40 feet in height

Native Range
From the coast of Delaware inland to Pennsylvania abundantly southward throughout the coastal plain and Appalachian system, south to Florida and west to eastern Texas

Small evergreen tree

Seasonal Colors
Stays green throughout the year

Moist, slightly acidic, well-drained sites such as upland pine sites and hammocks

Mostly tolerant to partial shade

Similar Species
Large gallberry, Foster’s holly, Chinese holly, dahoon

Pets and Diseases
Many types of fungi attack the thick leaves of the American Holly, but do little other than superficial damage. As for insects, the southern red mite causes a reduction in leaf and twig growth and undesirable foliage color; the native holly leafminer can damage foliage severely and cause leaves to drop prematurely. Other pests cause superficial damage as well.

Rebate Eligibility

Of Note
In English poetry and stories, the holly is inseparably connected with the merry-making and greetings which gather around Christmastime.

American holly is the state tree of Delaware.

Despite the presence of saponins in the leaves and berries, American holly is not considered poisonous to man or animals.

Photo Credits