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Native Plant of the Week: American Holly

Family: Aquifoliacae


Name: Ilex opaca - American Holly


Flower: White


Bloom Time: May-June


Fruit: Red


Fruit Time: Fall - Winter


Soil Condition: Moist, Acidic


Light: Sun - Partial Shade


Size: 40-60' high by 10-20' wide


Native Range: Central and Eastern United States including Long Island


Zone: 5 to 9

Ilex opaca is a slow-growing (12-24" per year) native tree with a lovely pyramidal shape when mature. This beauty is an understory tree and does need a lot of space. It tolerates a bit of drought and some flooding but does not like to sit in water. It also does not tolerate clay soils and despises being planted in the fall. Please note: In order to have berries, you must have a male tree present.


Maintenance: Remove dead branches.


Benefits: Host plant for Henry's Elfin, fruits are eaten by songbirds, wild turkeys, quail, white-tailed deer, squirrels, and other small mammals, provides winter cover for birds.


Fun Facts: This is the holly used to 'deck the halls.' The fragrant male flowers are in 3-12 flowered clusters and the female flowers are solitary or in 2s or 3s. Berries are poisonous to humans - I bit one just to find out how they taste and they are quite disgusting.


Companion Plants: Hydrangea quercifolia - Oakleaf Hydrangea, Viburnum dentatum - Arrowwood, Rhododendron maximum - Rhododendron, Viburnum prunifolium - Blackhaw, Vaccinium angustifolium - Lowbush Blueberry


Photos, Top to Bottom: flowers in spring (skdavidson CC-BY-SA 2.0), berries (KMS Native Plants), foliage (KMS Native Plants), natural form (KMS Native Plants)