Ilex L.


Referring to the similarity of the leaves of many species to those of the evergreen Holly Oak Quercus ilex.

Mostly shrubs or small trees. Leaves with toothed or entire margins. Flower clusters mostly flattopped. Sepals minute, fused at the base. Petals 4, free or united at the base. Stamens attached to the petals. Female flowers with sterile stamens. Male flowers with a rudimentary ovary. Fruit with 2-4 segments.

Grown for the attractive mostly evergreen leaves and colourful fruits, often as a hedge or windbreak, but does not enjoy the popularity in Australia that it is accorded in the northern hemisphere. Rarely cultivated species include: I. cassine L., Dahoon, from SE USA; I. kingiana Cockrell, grown in some old gardens Syn. I. insignis J.D. Hook.; I. integra Thunb. from Japan, Korea and Taiwan, with leaves entire over the whole plant; I. paraguariensis Hook. from Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina, which is deciduous and the source of a tea; and I. verticillata A. Gray, Winterberry, of N America, a deciduous shrub or small tree with fruits red or occasionally yellow.

Cultivars are registered with the Holly Society of America.

About 390 species from tropical and temperate regions. Australia has 2 native species.

Hardwood cuttings or grafting.

The white wood has various commercial uses. There is a Christmas trade in decorative holly branches with berries. In S America dried leaves of I. paraguariensis are used to brew a tea called Yerba Maté or Paraguay Tea.

Petals mostly 4 but fused at the base; stamens fused to the petals; berries brightly coloured.

Mt Lofty Bot. Garden, Adelaide, has about 30 taxa.

Hu (1949-51). Cultivars: Hansell, Dudley & Eisenbeiss (1970), Eisenbeiss & Dudley (1973, 1983, 1994a, 1994b), S. Andrews, (1983, 1984, 1986), van Gelderen (1988), Eisenbeiss (1996). Popular: Bauers (1993), Cook (1993), Galle (1997).

Source: Spencer, R. (2002). Aquifoliaceae. In: Spencer, R.. Horticultural Flora of South-eastern Australia. Volume 3. Flowering plants. Dicotyledons. Part 2. The identification of garden and cultivated plants. University of New South Wales Press.

Hero image
kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Aquifoliales
family       Aquifoliaceae
Higher taxa
Subordinate taxa
species         Ilex aquifolium L.
species         Ilex cornuta Lindl. & Paxt.
species         Ilex crenata Thunb.
species         Ilex opaca Aiton