American holly
Ilex opaca Aiton
  • LEAVES: evergreen, alternate, simple, blade generally elliptic in shape, to ca. 3-4” long, texture leathery, blades flat, upper surface dark green (not especially glossy), lower surface pale and dull green; blades spine-tipped, also at least a few marginal spine-like teeth are often present, typically not more than 7 or 8 on each side
  • FLOWER: unisexual, plants dioecious, calyx and corolla 4-merous, petals white or cream-colored; flowering in early spring
  • FRUIT: red drupe with multiple pits, ca. 0.4” broad
  • TWIGS: stout; young twigs sparsely short-pubescent with rusty hairs, becoming glabrous, older twigs brown, roughened, with circular raised lenticels; leaf scares crescent-shaped
  • BARK: thin, smooth or sometimes roughened by warty processes, light gray
  • FORM: small tree to ca. 50’ tall; when open-grown the crown is symmetrically conical or cylindrical
  • HABITAT: mesic forests such as mixed loblolly pine-hardwood, hardwood slope, and southern mesophytic hardwood; also hummocks in baygalls
  • WETLAND DESIGNATION: Facultative (FAC): Equally likely to occur in wetlands or non-wetlands (34–66%) in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast Plain Region
  • RANGE: southeastern US [USGS Range Map]
  • USES: woody is used for cabinets, trim, furniture, piano keys, and small novelty items; ornamental
  • WILDLIFE: herbage browsed and fruits eaten by whitetail deer, fruits eaten by numerous birds; dense foliage provides cover and nesting habitat for various songbirds
  • Best Recognition Features:
    1. evergreen tree of mesic forests with smooth gray bark
    2. leaves leathery, the apex always spine-tipped, margins entire or with several spine-tipped teeth on each side
    3. red drupes to 0.4” broad