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NC Native Plant Society:
Plant Details

Ilex opaca

American Holly, Christmas Holly

Scientific Name:

Ilex opaca

Genus:

Ilex

Species Epithet:

opaca

Common Name:

American Holly, Christmas Holly

Plant Type

Tree

Life Cycle

Perennial

Plant Family

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)

Native/Alien:

NC Native

Size:

12-36 ft., 36-72 ft.

Bloom Color(s):

White, Green

Light:

Sun - 6 or more hours of sun per day, Part Shade - 2 to 6 hours of sun per day

Soil Moisture:

Dry, Moist, Wet

Bloom Time:

April, May, June

Growing Area:

Mountains, Piedmont, Sandhills, Coastal Plain

Habitat Description:

In a wide variety of forests, ranging from xeric to wetland (Weakley 2015). Common throughout NC.

Leaf Arrangement:

Alternate

Leaf Retention:

Evergreen

Leaf Type:

Leaves veined, not needle-like or scale-like

Leaf Form:

Simple

Life Cycle:

Perennial

Wildlife Value:

Important for Wildlife

Landscape Value:

Recommended and Available

Male plant in bloom

image

Jack Spruill, 4/28/09, Hampstead

From Jack Spruill - As with all the Ilex that I know, the male plants have many more flowers than do the females.

Female plant

Females must be near a male plant to set fruit. This one was 25' from the preceding male tree so it has a heavy berry set.

image

Jack Spruill, 4/28/09, Hampstead

Fruits

image

David Paynter, Wilmington, 2/1/2011

Bark of a mature tree.

The bark is normally gray and smooth. This one is unusually beautiful.

image

Jack Spruill, 12/21/06, Hampstead

Bark on a very old tree.

image

Jack Spruill, 6/29/09, Albemarle Sound

From Jack: Here is a very old Ilex opaca on my farm on the Albemarle Sound. This tree is very tall. I do not know if it is a male or female. Often I can tell the sex of the American Holly by examining its leaves. The leaves of a male tend to be smaller than the leaves of the female.

Beautiful red fruit (drupes) in the Fall against the dark green evergreen leaves

Graham/Swain Counties, NC

The Scientific Name is Ilex opaca. You will likely hear them called American Holly, Christmas Holly. This picture shows the Beautiful red fruit (drupes) in the Fall against the dark green evergreen leaves of Ilex opaca

Bettina Darveaux

Links:

USDA PLANTS Database Record

In a wide variety of forests, ranging from xeric to wetland (Weakley 2015).



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