Footsteps in the Forest

Close this search box.

American Holly

Ilex opaca

Height: The American holly tree grows to about 100 feet, but it is usually much smaller  

Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen

Lifespan: Up to 100 years  

Fall Foliage: Green  

Range: The southeastern United States from New Jersey to Texas  

Typical Habitat: Typically an understory species; it adapts to a variety of soil types and moisture levels  

American holly tree leaf

The American Holly Tree: An Important Wildlife Resource   

In addition to being popular among humans, who often plant it as an ornamental plant, the American holly is one of the most important understory species in many portions of its range.  

This value comes in two different forms. For starters, the tree forms a very dense evergreen canopy, complete with predator-thwarting spines on the leaves. This makes it an excellent species in which native birds can nest.

But the holly is also an important food source, as it produces an abundance of berries, which, although toxic to humans and many other animals, help sustain birds throughout the winter.

American Holly Tree Identification: Tips & Tricks

Typically, the American holly presents few identification challenges.

The combination of the spiky, evergreen leaves and bright red berries (in the winter) is generally enough to distinguish them from any other native species. Like other evergreen species in the winter, you can often spot the American holly from a distance.

There are a few other native hollies that look somewhat similar, but the American holly is the only one that reaches tree-like proportions.  

The American Holly: Additional Information

Looking for more information about this species? Start by checking out the following resources:

  • U.S. Forest Service: An in-depth examination of the species, including information about the tree’s ecology, growth habit, and susceptibility to fire.
  • North Carolina State Extension: Basic information, a helpful (and easy to reference) chart, and a number of photos of the American holly tree.
  • Illinois Wildflowers: General information, as well as quite a few ecological tidbits.   

Footsteps in the Forest is reader-supported. When you purchase products via links on our site, we may receive a small commission.

Related Articles

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Newest Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *