Facts about American Holly Trees

Written by Chloe Evans

Whether it’s in your home as a holiday decoration or planted in your yard, you should have no trouble recognizing the American holly tree!

Also referred to as the evergreen holly, the American holly is commonly found as an understory tree, preferring shade over direct sunlight. It usually only reaches 20 to 50 feet in height and ½ to 1 ½ feet in diameter. If you come across a large American holly, definitely snap a picture. These trees have a low growth rate and low fertility, so larger specimens are hard to find!

Here are some characteristics of American hollies:

  • Leaves: American hollies have flat, leathery elliptical shaped leaves that are yellowish green in color with sharp, pointed spines around their edges. 
  • Bark: Saplings are green to light brown in color and slightly hairy, but as they mature their bark becomes thin, smooth, and light gray. Older American hollies have rougher bark and may have wart-like growths. 
  • Fruit: The most noticeable feature of this tree is its fruit. The American holly’s berries ripen in the fall and remain during the winter. Small mammals, birds, and Mississippi’s white-tailed deer rely on this fruit during the winter months. 
  • Habitat: American hollies thrive in moderate areas – not too cold or hot and not too wet or dry. They are found in much of the southeastern region of the U.S., particularly in minor stream bottoms. However, in high lands, the American holly can be found basking in the shade of its much taller neighbors. 

American holly, though not very strong, is quite useful in some carpentry applications. The light gray wood is used for inlays in cabinet work, handles, rulers, and small novelty items. 

If you want to learn more about Mississippi’s trees, check out Extension Publication 146, “Know Your Trees.”

First appeared on extension.msstate.edu

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