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Home > Resources > North Carolina Trees > American Holly

American Holly

(11ex opaca A it.)

  American Holly, sometimes called Christmas holly, occurs sparingly throughout the state, from coastal floodplains to 4,500 foot elevations in the mountains. It grows best on a rich, moist soil but also is found in higher and drier conditions.

It has spiny, wavy-edged, glossy, dark green leaves, which (along with its bright red berries) make it highly valued for Christmas decorations. The leaves are green through the winter; each leaf stays on the tree for three years. They are 2 to 4 inches long, with prominent midribs and veins.

The spherical fruit, produced only on female trees, ripens in the late autumn and remains on the tree over the winter. Each bright red, fleshy berry is attached to a short stalk.

The bark is light gray and roughened by wart-like growths. The tree usually reaches 15 to 40 feet in height and 1 to 2 feet in diameter. The wood is light and tough but is not strong. It is close grained and bone-colored, which makes it valuable for various kinds of interior finishing and for inlays in joiner-cabinet work. The bitter-tasting berries are food for songbirds, deer, wild turkeys and a wide variety of other animals.
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