Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tuesday's Trees- Ilex opaca, American Holly


buffer zone work 006 crThe American Holly is a wonderful evergreen tree to have in the landscape.  A native tree the Eastern United States, its range is zones 5-9.
A mature tree seldom exceeds 50 feet tall with a 15 to 25 foot spread.  This pyramidal shaped tree is a slow grower.  It can handle some shade though the female tree has a better berry production if planted in full sun.  It can be seen as a single or multiple trunk.
As others in the Ilex family, this tree is dioecious, having male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers on separate trees.  The flowers are small and inconspicuous emerging in the spring.   For berries to be produced it is recommended for a male tree to be planted within 200 feet of the female.  A male tree can pollinate more than one female. (no comment!)  The berries are actually drupes.  Each drupe contains four seeds encased in a hard shell.  The berries are produced during the summer, starting green and turning red as they mature.  

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 The berries are a food source for approximately 20 varieties of songbirds, mourning doves, and turkeys.  Migratory birds are credited (blamed) for the wide range of hollies. Cattle have been known to eat the foliage. The tree is a shelter for birds and small animals as well as a food source for  the larva of the Elfin butterfly.
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The name opaca means dull, not glossy.  The leaves on the American Holly are a dull dark green with spiny tips on most leaves.  There are some leaves that have only the spine on the tip of the leaf.  It is alternate, ovate, and evergreen.  The holly is used in the United States as Christmas decorations in wreaths, garlands and other arrangements.  This can be traced back to the early settlers finding the American Holly similar to the English Holly (Ilex aquifolium) which has been used in Europe for centuries as a symbol of Christmas. 
The problems (disease and insect) are minimal.  There are fungal diseases (remove diseased fallen leaves), chlorosis can occur when the Ph levels are high and Tar spot which appears as yellow spots on the leaves in early summer.  Spider mites, leaf miners, and scale can be found infesting hollies.

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The light grayish brown bark on the trunk is always smooth, no matter the age of the tree. 
The wood is hard and is used in a wide range of items – piano keys, handles for tools, scroll work, small furniture, inlay work, violin pegs and many other items.  More scientific information can be found on the Silvics manual, a resource put out by the  Department of Agriculture.  If you are interested in a long list of cultivars the University of Florida site has a great list in addition to far more information than I have shared here.

MOBOT, Floridata, Virginia Tech, NCState, and Auburn  were additional websites used.  

Next week’s tree- Dwarf Albert Spruce

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I read about using Windows Live Writer for blog postings.  Jean at Jean’s Garden recently had a post about this. I thought I would give it a whirl and see how I liked it. Windows Live Writer is a free download (I am all for free!!). With Blogger the editing page has such a small window it makes it difficult to see the arrangement of photos with text.  I sometimes use MSWord 2007 to publish my posts, you get all the auto correct aides within Word.  For some reason I can’t load my photos in Word and have them show up on the blog.  With Windows Live I can add my photos directly from my hard drive into the post.  Additionally, if I forget to tag my picture I can add a watermark with my name. The photos can be clicked on to see in a larger screen.  I still need to do a spell check but it is easy within WL.  I will continue to use my hidden blog to see how the posting looks on the web.  I use the same template on my trial blog and I can make additional adjustments if needed.   One nice thing about using either WL or Word is I can publish directly and all my hyperlinks are intact.  If you copy and paste from a document to your blog editor, the links don’t come along.  Have you used Windows Live?  Do you like it?  What features do you especially find useful?  Not sure about using it for every post, but it does have lots to offer.  I have only explored a few of the functions.  After trying to get the photos lined up within the post I have a bit of a learning curve to conquer.

words and photos by Janet,The Queen of Seaford.


  1. An interesting tree... with almost perfect conical shape. The little berries very enticing... ~bangchik

  2. Love American Holly. It grows in the wild here. A volunteer among some azaleas was shaded until it grew into one tall plant.

    I haven't tried the new editor. Yet. I think I may try it with my Wordpress account, which is more difficult for me because I tried it after Blogger and old habits tend to be the more comfortable.

    I'm finding the 'new' Blogger editor to be adequate for me -- switching back and forth between HTML and Compose mode. The only thing I don't like is that the Preview doesn't really show how the pictures are going to line up.

    Someone asked recently if she'd lose her template and so on if she switched to the new editor on Blogger. I never knew when I switched. One day it was just there.

  3. Hi Catherine, this is a tree that has colonized our neighborhood, and that is a good thing! There are many mature speciments here, and we have found that those randy males will pollinate many of the dwarf types, including the Blue Princess group, no prince needed! As for the windows live, wordpress allows for all the control and features that I want or need. The upload and placement of the photos is easy and the support team helped me make the changes to the theme I choose to make the photos larger and change the font and header sizes.

  4. I like the pyramid shape...I'm not used to seeing that in trees that aren't firs. The leaves are beautiful as well.

  5. I never knew they could get so large! What a beautiful specimen. I use the new editor, it is easier to put photos on. But you can't load videos with the new one. :(

  6. What a big specimen indeed. I so love those berries too. Such a cheery sight in the winter.

    I've not used Windows live writer. Sounds handy.

  7. That is a beautiful tree! I love the berries on it!

  8. Your tree posts are so informative.

    I was just wondering... when you move to SC, will you still be the Queen of Seaford... or will your queendom change?


  9. Hmm I'm curious about Windows Live now...

    Great post - I had no idea this tree could get so large. How interesting to read about the uses of the wood.

  10. I didn't realize the birds ate the berries. That must be how those little seedlings appear in my yard :)
    Another very interesting post!

  11. Sorry, no personal anecdotes for you on the Holly. I just remember how much I hated walking barefoot near one.

    I am reluctant to experiment with changing how I post things. My strange little system of posting my pictures from Flickr and adjusting their size in Blogger seems to be working for me.

  12. I love this tree Janet and wish it liked my garden! It did until the drought of 2007 took it and a few others out! Gail

  13. Hi Janet~~ Such a wealth of good information on the holly. For having such vulnerability to bugs and disease, I find it surprising that it's done so well.

    I couldn't get the complete download of WL and haven't gone back to investigate the errors. You've given me the push I need.

  14. Hi Bangchik, the berries are always a favorite holiday decoration. The tree is a super shape.

    Hi NellJean, I like the holly, though the leaves are tough on the toes.
    I am not sold on Windows Live Writer though I think I need to give it another try, keeping in mind the 'mistakes' I made today. I am not sure about losing a template --mine was still there. Most interesting.

    Hi Frances, yes the holly does make itself comfortable in an area. Interesting that it also pollinates Blue Princess, guess the flowering time is the same-- then Ilex to Ilex. I am still playing with the Windows Live. May end up not using it, but it is worth giving a try.

    Hi Noelle, the shape is great, lovely to see a number of them through the woods in the winter when green is limited to the evergreens.

    Hi Rosey, it is pretty amazing how large they can get, one of the few hollies that get big.
    I don't do videos so I hadn't come across that problem.

    Hi Tina, the berries really stand out in the winter- great color.

    Hi Debbie, thanks! Glad you like the tree.

    Hi Cameron, glad you think these are informative. I try.
    hhahaa...I suppose I will be The Queen of Seaford Currently Living on the Lake... or something like that.

    Hi Ginger, we can explore Windows Live at the same time.
    Fun to learn about these trees isn't it?

    Hi Catherine, lots of critters eat these berries...and yes that is how they end up in your yard.

    Hi Les, bummer, no story. I agree about the leaves, don't like raking them at all!!
    As for experimenting with the Windows Live, not very happy how I did this post, but I do see I can improve.

    Hi Gail, nice to see you out and about. Sorry you lost the holly with the drought. The drought has really taken a toll on the trees. We see the stress in the Rhododendrons especially. Think this winter's rain will make up for how many years of drought?

  15. Hi Grace, thanks, I try to offer a bit of info...but also want to make it readable. Some of the leaves will be lost to the spider mites especially. Since they are evergreen, the long lasting foliage really suffers the insect damage, but new leaves quickly fill in.
    Let me know what you think of Windows Live when you download it.

  16. I think the American Holly is just about the most perfect tree ~ next to the magnolia. Or maybe I'm just biased because those two are my favorites. LOVE, love, love it. There is nothing like holly berries & leaves for Christmas (except well, once again, magnolia leaves!) :-)

    I've never used Windows Live but Typepad is different than Blogger so I'm not familiar with how it is to post on your platform. It sounds good tho so I hope it works out better for you.

  17. I love American Holly. We have one in full sun that's a very heavy fruiter. There are several big old specimens on the banks of the creek.

    I will have to try WindowsLive. I find publishing and editing in blogger to be time-consuming -- it'd be nice to have an easier way.

  18. The Holly is a beautiful evergreen tree and the bright red berries are a bonus to the eyes. Our holly’s never have berries as I think we have only the male trees. I see berry's on the holly’s near us so I do wonder why we dont get those berry's. The berried trees are at the entrance to our street and we are the second house on the street so not that far. hummmm...

    The birds are scary! This happens to my parent’s yard with the grackle migration each year. We only have a few resident Red Wing Black birds at our feeders during the winter months but they are not a problem. I would have to stop putting out food until they left the area as they are so scary just like the movie!

  19. I didn't realize holly could actually grow to tree size--these are stunning!

    I've never tried Windows Live, but I might look into this. I get so frustrated sometimes trying to edit on Blogger. If you have a trial blog, can you move a whole post to this blog? I keep thinking I'd like the change elements on mine, but I never seem to find the time.

  20. I enjoy American holly and all of its relatives and descendants. What a great group of plants!


    P.S. I'm not so sure your interface with Windows Live works as well as what you used before (my loading was quite slow). I find that Blogger does take quite a bit of tweeking for photos to appear nicely (aggravating), but I haven't tried to use Wordpress or another server, either.

  21. I think this is just about my favorite holly. I loved the closeup of the berries.
    I haven't used WL because since I am at Wordpress I don't seem to have the same problems as you do, but it does sound easier for you.

    Always Growing

  22. Hi Kathleen, it is a great tree, flowers, berries, nice shape and evergreen. Sweet! I will be taking my time with Windows Live apparently some are having a harder time loading the pages.

    Hi Sweetbay, we have a few hollies along our bank as well (in SC). I am still thinking that writing and editing is easier in Word, but practice would help with WL.

    Hi Skeeter, yes, sounds like yours is a male.
    We are still having lots of blackbirds and they stand out against the snow!

    Hi Rose, yes it is one of the larger growing hollies.
    I have everything in the trial blog (it is private) I publish and edit and republish until I am happy how it looks. I then copy and paste within blogger editor html tab from one blog to the other. I do have the same template on both blogs, have to remember to change both to keep them consistant.

    Hi Lisa, I will look into the problem with the Windows Live loading, probably the picture size. I have only been in Blogger, not ventured out to Wordpress or Typepad.
    I do like many of the hollies, great plants.

    Hi Jan, thanks! I am still mulling the WL use, I am sure many of the problems I had with it were my errors.


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