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American Holly

American Holly 1

American Holly

Ilex opaca

Family: Aquifoliaceae

Leaf Type: Evergreen

Mature Height: 10-20 m (33-66 ft)

Fall Color: N/A

Native Range: American hollies are prevalent all throughout the Southeast.



American hollies are evergreen (do not lose their leaves in winter), ornamental trees often seen in residential and urban areas. They are often selected for their appeal of bright red berries on a dark green background. These trees have a dark glossy green upper leaf with pale green underleaf. The leaves are stiff and usually curved with sharp spines at the edges. Old leaves turn yellow and fall in the spring when the flowers start to come in. The flowers of the American holly are tiny and greenish white. The fruit of this tree is what helps make them so distinctive. They produce bright red, shiny berries that persist into the winter, making them popular for holiday decorations. The berries are also a favorite source of food for foraging and migrating bird species like cardinals, cedar waxwings, and eastern bluebirds. We recommend not sampling the fruits & nuts of the trees and plants here at Adventure Science Center. The bark of the American holly is smooth and gray.


Fun Facts

●The latin word opaca in the scientific name is derived from the word opacus which means shaded or dark (opaque means impervious to the rays of visible light). This reflects that the holly is shade-tolerant.
● The berries of this tree are poisonous to humans, but the leaves can be brewed into tea.

Did you know that trees provide homes for animals, keep us cool and clean our air? Click here to learn more about the benefits that trees provide to us and our world.

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