The American holly or Ilex opaca is a
broadleaf evergreen tree that is native to many states on the eastern coast
including Maryland. Its native range extends from Massachusetts south to
Florida and west to Texas and Missouri. These trees have a formal pyramidal
shape when juvenile and a loose pyramidal shape when entering maturity.
Propagation methods include rooting cuttings or grafting. As for growth from
seeds, it has been noted that 18 to 36 months is a common duration until the
The American holly is a dioecious plant which means that male and female
flowers are on separate plants or each individual plant can only produce a
single type of gamete. The female flower must be pollinated by pollen from a
male tree to produce fruit, an attractive berry-like drupe which persists
through the winter. Most female selections will form red fruit but it has
been documented that over 50 yellow to orange fruiting selections or
cultivars have been observed.
The U.S. National Arboretum released a publication in 1973 titled
International Checklist of Cultivated Ilex - Part 1, Ilex opaca
that lists and describes over one thousand cultivars ofIlex opaca.
Since so many selections exist it is recommended to plant a genetically
superior cultivar(s) to ensure the growth habit and cultural requirements of
your specific site are met. In Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape
Plants, he states that