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Ilex opaca - Sol. ex Aiton.
Common Name American Holly
Family Aquifoliaceae
USDA hardiness 4-8
Known Hazards Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, the fruits of at least some members of this genus contain saponins and are slightly toxic. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and stupor if eaten in quantity[274]. The fruits can cause violent vomiting[222].
Habitats Grows in a variety of soil types, but it is generally found in deep moist bottomlands[229]. Moist woods, hedges and fields[43, 184].
Range Eastern N. America - Massachusetts to Florida and west to Texas.
Edibility Rating  
Other Uses  
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating  
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Semi-shade Full sun


Ilex opaca American Holly

Ilex opaca American Holly
Physical Characteristics
 icon of manicon of shrub
Ilex opaca is an evergreen Shrub growing to 15 m (49ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a slow rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 5. It is in leaf 12-Jan It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Nov to December. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

I. quercifolia. Meerb.

Woodland Garden Secondary; Dappled Shade; Shady Edge; Hedge;
Edible Uses
Edible Parts:
Edible Uses: Tea.

The roasted leaves are used as a tea substitute[161, 177]. They do not contain caffeine[183]. The drink was a very popular tea substitute during the American Civil war[183].
Medicinal Uses

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Antiperiodic;  Diuretic;  Emetic;  Laxative;  Ophthalmic;  Skin.

The berries are laxative, emetic and diuretic[222]. They are used in the treatment of children's diarrhoea, colic and indigestion[222]. A tea made from the leaves has been used as a treatment for measles, colds etc[222, 257]. The leaves have also been used externally in the treatment of sore eyes, sore and itchy skin[222, 257]. A tea made from the bark was once used in the treatment of malaria and epilepsy[222]. It has also been used as a wash for sore eyes and itchy skin[257].
Other Uses
Dye;  Hedge;  Hedge;  Shelterbelt;  Wood.

A number of cultivars of this species are used for hedging[200]. Fairly wind-resistant, this species is also used in shelterbelt plantings[200]. A dye has been made from the berries - the colour is not given[257]. Wood - light, tough, not strong, close grained, highly shock resistant, easily worked[82, 149, 171, 229]. A strikingly white wood, it is valued for use in veneers and inlay[274]. It weighs 36lb per cubic foot[235]. Too small for commercial exploitation, but it is valued for use in cabinet making and the interior finishes of houses[82], it is also used for making small items such as tool handles[149, 171, 229]. The wood can also be stained to imitate ebony[171].
Cultivation details
Succeeds in most soils so long as they are not water-logged. Fairly wind-resistant[200]. Plants are hardy to about -25°c[184]. A slow-growing and long-lived species in the wild[229], but it does not thrive or fruit well in British gardens[182]. Plants do not thrive in a maritime climate[188]. There are many named forms, selected for their ornamental value[182, 200]. The leaves remain on the plant for about 3 years, falling in the spring[82]. Flowers are produced on the current year's growth[229]. Resents root disturbance, especially as the plants get older[11]. It is best to place the plants into their permanent positions as soon as possible, perhaps giving some winter protection for their first year or two[K]. Plants are very tolerant of pruning and can be cut right back into old wood if required[188]. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can take 18 months to germinate. Stored seed generally requires two winters and a summer before it will germinate and should be sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Scarification, followed by a warm stratification and then a cold stratification may speed up the germination time[78, 80]. The seedlings are rather slow-growing. Pot them up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame for their first year. It is possible to plant them out into a nursery bed in late spring of the following year, but they should not be left here for more than two years since they do not like being transplanted. Alternatively, grow them on in their pots for a second season and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Give them a good mulch and some protection for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of almost ripe wood with a heel, August in a shaded position in a cold frame. Leave for 12 months before potting up. Layering in October. Takes 2 years.
Other Names
Found In
Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status
IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :
Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameEdibility RatingMedicinal Rating
Ilex aculeolata 10
Ilex aquifoliumHolly, English holl, Christmas Holly, Common Holly, English Holly22
Ilex asprella 02
Ilex cassineCassine, Dahoon, Cassine Holly11
Ilex chapaensis 10
Ilex coriaceaLarge Gallberry10
Ilex cornutaHorned Holly, Chinese holly12
Ilex crenataJapanese Holly, Box Leaved Holly10
Ilex glabraInkberry10
Ilex integraMochi Tree10
Ilex latifoliaTarajo10
Ilex macropoda 10
Ilex pedunculosa 11
Ilex pubescens 02
Ilex purpurea 02
Ilex rotundaKurogane holly01
Ilex verticillataWinterberry, Common winterberry13
Ilex vomitoriaYaupon Holly,11
Ilex x altaclerensisHolly00
Ilex yunnanensis 01
Quercus ilexHolly Oak, Evergreen Oak52
Quercus ilex ballotaHolm Oak52


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Sol. ex Aiton.
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Readers comment
Flem   Sun Oct 23 2005
this site helped me soooo much!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Flem   Sun Oct 23 2005
this site helped me soooo much!!!!!!!!!!!!!
David Beaulieu   Wed Jan 11 2006

American Holly Trees Introduction to some of the common holly plants, including American holly trees.

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Subject : Ilex opaca  

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