Ilex opaca Ait. - American Holly


|  back  | forward |

Ilex opaca - (image 1 of 6)



Family: Aquifoliaceae


Shaded or open woods. Prefers moist, well-drained and acidic soils.




MA to FL, west to MO and TX. More common in the southern portion of it's range.


Medium tree, to 40' but usually smaller. Leaves evergreen, alternate, simple elliptical to elliptic-lanceolate, to 4" long and about half as wide, spiny toothed (less teeth in older specimens), dark green and shiny above, yellow-green below; petiole .25 to .5" long, minutely downy. Flowers dull white, 4 lobed; dioecious, the staminate flowers in cymes; pistillate 1 to 3 on a puduncle. Fruit a dull red, rounded drupe to 1/2" in diameter, matures in autumn and persisting into winter. Stems green when young, becoming rough with circular raised lenticels with age.


Flowers in May

Wetland indicator: Facultative upland, Facultative-

Slow growing, eventually becoming a pyramidal tree. Dirr lists it as hardy to zone 5, but zone 6 is more realistic. As is the case for many broadleaf evergreens, the combination of winter cold, wind, and sun can take a toll on the leaves.


Dirr, Michael A. 1998. Manual of Woody Landscape Plants:
Their Identification, Ornamental Characteristics, Culture, Propagation and Uses.
5th ed. Champaign, Illinois: Stipes Publishing L.L.C.


USDA, NRCS. 2002.
The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.




 Michael Hough 2005