Holly (Ilex sp.)
The American holly tree has been an important part of this country’s culture for a long time. Even before European settlers arrived in North America, native Americans used it as medicine. American holly twigs were boiled with pine tops to produce a tea taken to cure coughs. Today, the American holly, with its evergreen leaves and bright red berries, has become a major symbol of Christmas in the United States, and for good reason.

When the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts only one week before Christmas in 1620, they were greeted by the sight of American holly (Ilex opaca) in the nearby forest. We must assume they were reminded of the English holly (Ilex aquifolium) they had left at home, a symbol of Christmas for centuries in England and Europe.

Because American holly is native from Massachusetts all the way down the coast to northern Florida, virtually all the settlers to this country in the first hundred years found American Holly, allowing them to continue their Christmas tradition in the new land. Since then American holly, has been one of the more valuable and popular trees in the Eastern United States. Since then we have added a number of native and imported holly species to the list of trees we enjoy in our landscape scene.

Species of Holly
Species of HollySizeBasic Requirements
American Holly (Ilex opaca)Tree or Shrub. At 20 years the height 12’ with a spread of 8’. Mature height is 15 to 30’ with a spread of 10 to 25’. Growth rate slow at 5 to 7 inches per year.Zones 5 through 9; Full sun or part shade; moist acid soil; tolerates air pollution; not wind tolerant
Chinese Hollies (Ilex cornuta)Tree or Shrub. Mature height is 8 to 15’ with a spread of 15 to 20’Zones (6) 7 through 9; Full sun; pH tolerant, good heat and drought tolerance; light acid soil
English Hollies (Ilex aquifolium)Tree or Shrub. Mature height of 30 to 50’ with a spread of 15 to 30’
Inkberries (Ilex glabra)Shrub. Mature height of 6 to 8’ with a spread of 8 to 10’Zones 4 through 9; Full sun to part shade, moist acid soil
Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata)Shrub. Mature height of 3 to 15’ with a spread of 2 to 10’Zones 5 through 6; Full sun to part shade, light acidic soil; can handle city pollution
Meserve Holly (Ilex x meserveae)Shrubs. Mature height of 7 to 15’ with a spread of 3 to 12’Zones 5 through 9; Full sun or part shade; moist acid soil; tolerates air pollution; not wind tolerant
Winterberry (Ilex verticillata)Shrub. Mature height of 6 to 10’ with a spread of 6 to 10’Zones 3 through 9; Full sun or part shade, moist acid soil, can handle heavy soils.

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