American Holly

Ilex opaca

Copyright, Mark Brand, UConn Plant Database

Copyright, Salisbury State University

American Holly is a small tree or large shrub which is very easy to identify. It grows up to 60 feet tall, but is usually much smaller.

American Holly leaves are dark green, tough, and leathery. Sometimes they are very shiny. Underneath, they are yellowish-green. Holly leaves have several "prickles" on the edges.

The flowers of American Holly are small and white. They usually bloom from April to June.

Copyright, Mark Brand, UConn Plant Database

Benny J. Simpson, Texas A & M Dallas

Fruits of this tree are called drupes. The drupes are green and berry-like, turning to bright red. Drupes grow from September to November and stay on the tree through the winter.

American Holly has light gray bark and brown or gray twigs.

This tree tolerates shade well and is often an understory tree (grows in forests under larger trees).

Some other plants that often grow with American Holly include: oaks, hickories, pines, Sweetgum, Sassafras, Flowering Dogwood, Yellow Poplar, Eastern Redcedar, American Beech, American Sycamore, and Red Maple.

Copyright, Erv Evans, North Carolina State University

Copyright, Salisbury State University

American Holly is a good food source for many animals including: Wild Turkey, Northern Bobwhite, Mourning Dove, Cedar Waxwing, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, other songbirds, Eastern Gray Squirrel, White-tailed Deer, Eastern Chipmunk, Meadow Vole, White-footed Mouse, Red Fox, Raccoon, Eastern Cottontail, and Eastern Box Turtle.

The above animals are important to the American Holly, because that is how its seeds get spread to grow new trees.

American Holly also depends on insects, such as bees, wasps, and moths to pollinate its flowers.

This tree also is a good nest site for many bird species.

Relationships in Nature:

Animals Using as Food Source

Animals Using as Shelter

Associations With Other Plants


Mourning Dove

Northern Cardinal

Black Oak

Mourning Dove D

Wild Turkey

Mourning Dove

White Oak

Wild Turkey D

Northern Bobwhite

American Robin

Eastern White Pine

Northern Bobwhite D

Cedar Waxwing

Northern Mockingbird

Virginia Pine

Cedar Waxwing D

American Goldfinch

Common Grackle

Loblolly Pine

American Goldfinch D

Northern Cardinal

White-throated Sparrow

Mockernut Hickory

Northern Cardinal D

White-tailed Deer

Oystershell Scale


White-tailed Deer D

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Yellow Poplar

Eastern Gray Squirrel D

Eastern Chipmunk


Eastern Chipmunk D

Eastern Cottontail

Flowering Dogwood

Eastern Cottontail D

Meadow Vole

American Beech

Meadow Vole D

White-footed Mouse

Eastern Redcedar

White-footed Mouse D

Red Fox

American Sycamore

Oystershell Scale Pa


Red Maple

Raccoon D

Eastern Box Turtle

American Hornbeam

Eastern Box Turtle D

Honey Bee


Honey Bee Po

Eastern Yellow Jacket

Eastern Yellow Jacket Po

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird D

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird D

Relationship to Humans:

American Holly wood is used by people to make handles, rulers, piano keys, and violin pegs. Its leaves, twigs, and drupes are often used as Christmas decorations. American Holly is also planted as a landscape plant and hedge. They are excellent wildlife attractors. American Holly is also used for its nectar to make honey. Sometimes this tree becomes scarce in areas where people collect too much of it for decorations.

American Holly drupes can be poisonous to humans, especially young children.


Ilex opaca


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