American holly was noticed by the Pilgrims who landed in North America the week before Christmas in 1620 on the coast of what is now Massachusetts. This evergreen with prickly leaves and red berries reminded them of English holly which was a symbol of Christmas England and Europe. Also called white holly or Christmas holly, the tree has been one of the most valuable and popular trees in the Eastern United States for its foliage and berries, for Christmas decorations and for ornamental plantings. Ilex opaca is the only native North American holly that attains tree size.
The attractiveness of its foliage is American holly's principal value, whether as a forest tree, planted ornamental, or Christmas decoration. The development of commercial holly orchards and the education of landowners in the value and harvesting of holly foliage have lessened the exploitation of wild hollies.
Forestryimages.org provides several images of parts of American holly. The tree is a hardwood and the lineal taxonomy is Magnoliopsida > Celastrales > Aquifoliaceae > Ilex opaca Ait. American holly is also commonly called white holly or Christmas holly.
The Range of American Holly
From the maritime forests of Massachusetts, holly is scattered along the coast to Delaware. It grows inland into several Pennsylvania counties and abundantly southward throughout the coastal plain, Piedmont, and Appalachian system. The range extends south to mid-peninsular Florida, west to eastern Texas and southeastern Missouri. It corresponds roughly to the combined ranges for loblolly and shortleaf pines.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, evergreen, elliptical, 2 to 4 inches long, spiny toothed margin, thickened and leathery, shiny dark green above, much paler below. [br] Twig: Slender, with rust-colored pubescence; buds small reddish brown, pointed.