Ilex aquifolium L.

Common Holly

Evergreen shrub to small tree to 15 m or more tall. Young shoots green or purple. Leaves alternate, simple, oblong-elliptic, to about 10 cm long and 4 cm wide, hard and leathery, glossy above, margins generally wavy, with 5-9 prominent teeth but sometimes entire in upper branches. Flower clusters axillary, mostly of (1)3 flowers; autumn. Petals 4, white or occasionally pink. Fruit roundish, about 0.6-1 cm wide, red when mature (except in some cultivars).

I. ×meserveae S.Y. Hu, Blue Holly (Meserve Holly), is a hybrid, I. aquifolium × I. rugosa, and is occasionally available. It is an evergreen shrub 2-3 m tall with leaves blue-green, spiny, rather like a small-leaved I. aquifolium but bluish, fruit red. The original cross was made by Mrs F. Leighton Meserve of Long Island, New York, USA, and named in 1970. 'Blue Prince' is a taller male clone with purplish stems, leaves ovate-oblong, to 6 cm long, 3 cm wide, deep blue-green, glossy, fruit not produced. 'Blue Angel' is a slow growing female clone with dark purple stems and red fruits; it was derived from the cross (I. aquifolium × I. rugosa) × I. aquifolium. I. aquifolium is the most familiar and popular holly, grown for the spiny, leathery, glossy (sometimes variegated) leaves and attractive berries around Christmas time in Europe. Cultivars other than those listed below may be found in old gardens.

Europe. Naturalised in the Blue Mtns of NSW and S Lofty Ranges of SA.

VIC: Daylesford (Bot. Gds).

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.

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Distribution map

Ilex aquifolium 'Argentea Mediopicta'

Young shoots green. Leaves with a white spot in the centre or towards the base of the leaf. Syn 'Albopicta' and 'Silver Milkmaid'.

Ilex aquifolium 'Argenteamarginata'

Female clone. Leaves with a white edge.

Ilex aquifolium 'Aurea Marginata'

Leaves with margins yellow-variegated, the marginal spines prominent on wavy edges.

Ilex aquifolium 'Aureamediopicta'

Leaves with yellow variegation in the centre of the leaf.

Ilex aquifolium 'Bacciflava'

Fruit yellow. Yellow-fruited wild plants are referred to f. bacciflava (West.) Rehder.

Ilex aquifolium 'Crispa Aureopicta'

Variegated Screw-leaf Holly. Male. Leaves contorted and twisted, and with a yellow centre.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Argentea'

Silver Hedgehog Holly.Male clone. Branches purplish. Leaves small, to 4 cm long and densely spiny, the margins and teeth are white-variegated.

Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Aurea'

Male clone. As 'Ferox Argentea' but leaves with green margin and teeth, and centre variegated yellow.

Ilex aquifolium 'Golden Queen'

Male clone. Thorns erect.  Leaves with golden spots and an irregular yellow margin sometimes covering half the leaf. Syn. 'Aurea Regina'.

Ilex aquifolium 'Handsworth New Silver'

New shoots purple. Thorns and margin white, fairly regular edging, the centre marbled grey-green.

Ilex aquifolium 'Pendula'

Weeping Holly. Branches pendulous.

kingdom Plantae
phylum   Tracheophyta
class    Magnoliopsida
superorder     Asteranae
order      Aquifoliales
family       Aquifoliaceae
genus        Ilex L.