American Holly

Scientific Name: Ilex opaca
Abundance: common
What: leaves
How: dried then made into tea
Where: shady woods
When: spring, summer, fall, winter
Nutritional Value: flavoring
Dangers: do not consume berries

Leaf Arrangement: Leaves are alternate along the stem.

Leaf Shape: Simple, evergreen leaves with a smooth, elliptical shape, typically measuring 2 to 4 inches in length. Leaves are thicker and stiffer than many other tree leaves.

Leaf Margin: Leaf margins are spiny and serrated.

Leaf Color: Foliage is glossy dark green, maintaining its color throughout the year. Underside of leaf is lighter colored than the top.

Flower Structure: Inconspicuous, small, white flowers with four petals are arranged in clusters.

Flower Size: Individual flowers are around 1/8 inch in size.

Fruit (Drupe): The fruit is a bright red drupe, around 1/4 inch in diameter, containing four nutlets.

Bark: Bark is smooth and gray on young stems, becoming grayish-brown with age.

Height: American holly can grow to be a small to medium-sized tree, reaching heights of 20 to 50 feet.

Hairs: All parts are hairless.

Branching Pattern: The branching pattern is typically dense and pyramidal, forming a compact crown.

American holly leaves and berries in winter.

Close-ups of American holly leaves. Note the lighter-colored underside.


Close-up berries. They are toxic, do not eat!

American holly trunk.

American holly tree.

Texas distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture. The marked counties are guidelines only. Plants may appear in other counties, especially if used in landscaping.

North American distribution, attributed to U. S. Department of Agriculture.

The American holly can be found all over the woods of east Texas. Growing in shade to heights up to fifty feet tall, this evergreen, pointy-leafed tree are the traditional source of Christmas wreaths. The berries are somewhat toxic and should not be eaten but the dried leaves make a pleasant, slightly wintergreen-flavored tea. Let the leaves dry for at least six weeks before using for tea. waiting this long will allow the leaves' cell walls to break down some, making it easier for the flavors to seep out.

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