December 2021: An American Holly

Many ornamental holly shrubs with high gloss leaves are not the native American holly. American holly (Ilex opaca) is a woodland tree. It grows slowly, but it can reach a height of 60 feet in warmer regions! Its pyramidal shape and dark, evergreen leaves make it a striking addition to any landscape. While it has the same poky, spine-tipped leaves as the Asian holly, it doesn’t have the waxy, high sheen, and is instead beautifully subtle in its greenery.

The American holly is a host plant for 39 Lepidopteran species (moths and butterflies), and the flowers attract many pollinators. Hollies are dioecious. This means it requires both male and female plants in an area in order for the female plants to produce fruit. Male hollies grow throughout much of the woodlands of Connecticut, so many people can get away with planting only females. The fruit is festive, but also beneficial for songbirds and small mammals.

Looking for more native plants for the yard?

Here are two Connecticut nurseries:

Earth Tones Native Nursery, Woodbury, CT

Native: A Native Plant Nursery, Fairfield, CT

Live in New York? Check out these nurseries:

Catskill Native Nursery, Kerhonksen, NY

Long Island Natives, Eastport, NY

Want to be part of the Pollinator Pathway? Check out this website: