Holly American Holly
=Habitat and Range.=--Generally found in somewhat sheltered situations
in sandy loam or in low, moist soil in the vicinity of water.
Maine,--reported on the authority of Gray's Manual, sixth edition, in
various botanical works, but no station is known; New Hampshire and
Vermont,--no station reported; Massachusetts,--occasional from Quincy
southward upon the mainland and the island of Naushon; rare in the peat
swamps of Nantucket; Rhode Island,--common in South Kingston and Little
Compton and sparingly found upon Prudence and Conanicut islands in
Narragansett bay; Connecticut,--mostly restricted to the southwestern
Southward to Florida; westward to Missouri and the bottom-lands of
=Habit.=--A shrub or small tree, exceptionally reaching a height of 30
feet, with a trunk diameter of 15-18 inches, but attaining larger
proportions south and west; head conical or dome-shaped, compact;
branches irregular, mostly horizontal, clothed with a spiny evergreen
foliage. The fertile trees are readily distinguished through late fall
and early winter by the conspicuous red berries.
=Bark.=--Bark of trunk thick, smooth on young trees, roughish, dotted on
old, of a nearly uniform ash-gray on trunk and branches; the young
shoots more or less downy, bright greenish-yellow, becoming smooth and
grayish at the end of the season.
=Winter Buds and Leaves.=--Buds short, roundish, generally obtuse,
scales minutely ciliate. Leaves evergreen, simple, alternate, 2-4 inches
long, 1-1/2-3 inches wide, flat when compared with those of the European
holly, thickish, smooth on both sides, yellowish-green, scarcely glossy
on the upper surface, paler beneath, elliptical, oval or oval-oblong;
apex acutish, spine-tipped; base acutish or obtuse; margin wavy and
concave between the large spiny teeth, sometimes with one or two teeth
or entire; midrib prominent beneath; leafstalks short, grooved; stipules
minute, awl-shaped, becoming blackish, persistent.
=Inflorescence.=--Flowers in June along the base of the season's shoots;
sterile and fertile flowers usually on separate trees,--the sterile in
loose, few-flowered clusters, the fertile mostly solitary; peduncles and
pedicels slender, bracted midway; calyx persistent, with 4 pointed,
ciliate teeth; corolla white, monopetalous, with 4 roundish, oblong
divisions; stamens 4, alternating with and shorter than the lobes of the
corolla in the fertile flowers, but longer in the sterile; ovary green,
nearly cylindrical, surmounted by the sessile, 4-lobed stigma. Parts of
the flower sometimes in fives or sixes.
=Fruit.=--A dull red, berry-like drupe, with 4 nutlets, ribbed or
grooved on the convex back, ripening late, and persistent into winter. A
yellow-fruited form reported at New Bedford, Mass. (Rhodora, III, 58).
=Horticultural Value.=--Hardy in southern New England; though preferring
moist, gravelly loam, it does fairly well in dry soil; of slow growth;
useful to form low plantation in shade and to enrich the undergrowth of
woods; occasionally sold by collectors but rare in nurseries; nursery
plants must be frequently transplanted to be moved successfully; only a
small percentage of ordinary collected plants live. The seed seldom
germinates in less than two years.
=Notes.=--The cultivated European holly, which the American tree closely
resembles, may be distinguished by its deeper green, glossier, and more
wave-margined leaves and the deeper red of its berries.
There are several fine specimens of the Ilex opaca on the farm of
Col. Minot Thayer in Braintree, Mass., which are about a foot in
diameter a yard above the ground and 25 feet in height. They have
maintained their present dimensions for more than fifty years.--D. T.
Browne's Trees of North America, published in 1846.
This estate is now owned by Mr. Thomas A. Watson. Several of these
trees have been cut down, but one of them is still standing and of
substantially the dimensions given above. It must have reached the limit
of growth a hundred years ago and now shows very evident signs of
decrepitude. This may be due, however, to the loss of a square foot or
more of bark from the trunk.
1. Branch with staminate flowers.
2. Staminate flower.
3. Pistillate flower.
4. Fruiting branch.