Botanical Name: Ilex opaca
Common Name: American Holly
Origin: E. & SC. USA
Notable Feature: The shiny, dark evergreen leaves remain on the branches for two to three years, finally falling in the spring when pushed off by growing new leaf buds. This species is easily identified because it is the only native U.S. holly with spiny green leaves and bright red berries.
Habit: An upright, pyramidal, evergreen tree with branching to the ground. It slowly matures to 15 to 30 feet high and 18 to 40 feet wide under cultivation; may reach 50' tall in the wild. At maturity the habit may be open, irregular and picturesque or it may remain dense, upright and symmetrical.
Flower: Ornamentally insignificant flowers are dioecious (male and female flowers occur on separate trees). Both are dull white, fragrant, and 4-lobed and occur singly or in groups of three.
Fruit: Dull, rounded, red drupe (1/4 to ½ inch in diameter) that matures in October and persists through winter. More than 1,000 named cultivars exist, most of which were selected for berry color, berry size, or quantity.
Foliage: Evergreen, alternate on the branch, elliptic in shape, and 1 ½ to 3 ½ inches long with spiny teeth on the margins.
Interesting Fact: This is the Christmas holly whose berry-laden boughs are typically collected by Americans at Christmas time each year for ornamentation.