Ilex opaca

American Holly

American Holly, Abbie Korolik

Common Name(s) American Holly
Scientific Name Ilex opaca
Family Aquifoliaceae
Location/Vegetative Zone Maritime forest
Flowering Period Mid-spring
Identifying Characteristics 15-30 feet tall, green pointy leaves with red berries



  • Can grow up to 100 feet tall, but will never grow larger than shrub height in coastal areas.
  • Smooth bark of grayish color
  • 2 to 4 inch long toothed leaves, alternately arranged with leathery texture.
  • Greenish-white flowers bloom from April to June
  • Newly established plants will not flower for 4 to 7 years
  • Bright red berries mature on the plant from September to October and determine the gender of the plant
  • Grows from Massachusetts to Florida, and west to Texas and Missouri
  • Grows best on sandy soils

Edible/Medicinal Uses

  • Berries were chewed on by Native Americans to treat indigestion and act as a laxative, diuretic, and emetic

Cultural Uses


  • Used to make Christmas decor
  • Very popular in landscaping



  • Sandy Hook is home to the largest maritime holly forest on the east coast, 64 acres in size
  • Foliage provides cover for songbirds
  • White-tail deer and various species of birds feed on the berries


Moerman, Daniel M. Native American Ethnobotany. Portland: Timber Press Inc., 1998. Print.

“American Holly”. UF School of Forest Resources & Conservation. University of Florida. 2015. Web.

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