Position: Full sun to part shade
Flowering period: Late spring
Soil: Moist, well drained
Eventual Height: 15m
Eventual Spread: 10m
Hardiness: 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a
Ilex opaca is a slow growing evergreen tree with an upright pyramidal habit. Its dark green leaves are elliptical with entire spiny margins, up to 7.5cm long and 4cm across. Its light grey bark is smooth with warty lumps. Its trunk may achieve a diameter of up to 30cm. Its green/ white flowers are four petaled and up to 8mm across. Its flowers are dioecious, therefore male and female plants need to be present for a female to produce berries. Its red fruit are rounded drupes, up to 12mm across and often persist on the tree throughout the winter months.
Ilex opaca, commonly known as American Holly, is native to east and south central USA. In its native habitat it grows as an understory tree in both dry and occasionally flooding soils.
The etymological root of the binomial name Ilex is derived from the old Latin name for the Holly. Opaca is derived from the Latin opacum meaning ‘opaque’ or ‘shaded’.
The landscape architect may find Ilex opaca useful as a slow growing evergreen tree with attractive winter berries, particularly suitable for shady locations.
Ecologically, Ilex opaca flowers are attractive to pollinating insects including bees, wasps and moths. Its fruit are attractive to some bird species.
Ilex opaca prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil.
Ilex opaca requires little maintenance. If necessary it may also be cut in mid summer, but winter berries may be lost.