Holly, American

Scientific Name: Ilex opaca

Family: Aquifoliaceae

Height: 15 – 30 ft.

Spread: 10 -20 ft.

Bloom Time: May

Native Range: Eastern and Central United States, Pennsylvania

Ecological Value: Cover and nesting sites for birds. Winter food for birds

Human Value: American holly has been used as Christmas decorations since colonial times. The smooth grained white wood is used for fine carving such as scroll-work and scientific instruments. During the Civil War, the leaves were used as a tea substitute and also medicinally. (Harris, p. 167-168)

August 5, 2020: Our American holly is a survivor. When we moved to our house in July 2012, the lot next door was a wonderful wild tangle. Within the year, the lot has been clear-cut leaving nothing but ground out stumps and bare dirt behind. When we bought the land in the fall of 2014, nothing seemed to be living except some vinca and English ivy. Imagine my surprise when in 2016, two years after the trees had been cut, I noticed that the stump of a holly near the fence had resprouted. In the years since, she has grown two leaders and as of 2020 stands about 8 feet tall. Hollies are dioecious (male and female flowers are produced on different trees). In the fall of 2019, our holly produced berries for the first time since she began regrowing, proving herself to be female.

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