Fall Wildflowers of New England
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American Holly
Ilex opaca
F. Aquifoliaceae
Ilex opaca
General Description:

American holly is a well known, dioecious shrub or tree that measures 90-300 cm. in height. It is most easily identified by its bright red berries, arranged in clusters along the length of the smooth, robust stems. The delicate, radially symmetrical, white male flowers of American holly are arranged in small clusters at the leaf axils. Female flowers are arranged singularly along the length of the stem. The leaves are glossy green elliptical with prominently-toothed margins.

Flowers:

The white, radially symmetrical male flowers are small and are arranged in small clusters, rounded, at the leaf axils. Female flowers are similar in appearance but are arranged singularly along the length of the branches. The blooms have a green, spherical center, surrounded by white stamens, a shallow, fused corolla that opens into approximately four rounded petal lobes, and delicate green sepals.

Fruit:

The berry-like fruit is round and bright red. Berries are arranged singularly along the length of the stem.

Leaves:

The glossy green, leathery leaves measure approximately 5 cm. in length and are elliptical with pointed tips, pronounced, ridged midveins, and characteristically-toothed margins. Leaves are arranged in an alternate fashion.

Habitat:

American holly grows best in a wide variety of soils excluding wetlands and extremely dry mediums.

Fun Facts:

American holly is an evergreen whose bright, showy berries and characteristic leaves make it a popular component of ornamental winter displays.

American holly berries are a popular food source for birds.

Other names attributed to American holly include white holly and Christmas holly.

American holly is the only member of the Holly family that can attain tree size.

Ilex opaca
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