How long do holly trees live



(Ilex opaca)

Interesting Information About Plant:  

     The plant needs to be in medium-wet, well-drained soil and sunny or partial shade. These trees develop slowly and produce white flowers in late spring and red berries that last through winter. Holly is separated into male and female plants. The berries only grow on female Holly trees and the male trees must be nearby to help pollinate female flowers and ensure fruiting. To keep the berries going the males must pollinate the female. The practical uses are for dye color from the berries and the plants are very popular for landscaping and provides nesting habits for songbirds. Edible use is tea and the leaves are roasted used for tea subsitute but they don't contain caffeine. The medical uses are that the berries can be used for childern's diarrhea. Also tea from the leaves has been used for measles and colds. Leaves help treatment for sore eyes and itchy skin. 

     The only plant truly associated with the Christmas season because when the first settlers of the Americans from across the pond saw it on the shores of what is now Massachusetts it reminded them of English Holly, which was always used to celebrate Christmas in Europe. Since then it has been popular for use in the Eastern United States for its berries and foliage and Christmas decorations and ornamentation. Despite its beauty, one must be careful because the red berry-like fruit that the females produce are toxic and therefore should not be eaten.  Despite being toxic to humans, the berries are considered to be a vital source of food for birds during seasons when other food sources are limited. But even before European settlers came over it was also used by the Native Americans to make a tea for coughing by boiling the leaves, and it was even a plant favorite of George Washington. More recently in the 20th century the plant became so popular it was being stolen from people’s homes and in Delaware and Massachusetts laws were passed to prohibit sale of fresh Holly. The Holly plant does grow pretty slow, but can eventually attain a height of around 30-50 feet in a compact pyramid shape. If planted in the right conditions and decently cared for some hollies can live up to 100 years or longer.

Common Name(s): American Holly Tree

Scientific Name: Ilex opaca

Family Name (Scientific and Common): Aquifoliaceae (The Holly family)

Continent of Origin:  North America                

Plant Growth Habit: Tree

Height at Maturity: More than 10 Feet

Life Span: Perennial

Seasonal Habit: Evergreen Perennial

Growth Habitat: Full Sun / Partial Sun (survive with both)

Manner of Culture: Landscape Shrub-Tree  /  Native Species

Thorns on Younger Stem: No

Cross Section of Younger Stem: Roundish  

Stem (or Trunk) Diameter: More Than The Diameter of a Coffee-Mug 

Produces Brownish Bark: No (Grayish) 

Bark Peeling in Many Areas: No

Characteristics of Mature (Brownish) Bark: Smooth Bark  Type of Leaf: Thick, Fleshy Leaf

Length of Leaf (or Leaflet): Less than Length of a Credit Card 

Leaf Complexity: Simple 

Edge of Leaf: Serrated

Leaf Arrangement:  Alternate 

Leaf has Petiole: Yes 

Patterns of Main-Veins on Leaf (or Leaflet): Pinnate   

Leaf Hairiness: No Hairs

Color of Foliage in Summer: Green   

Change in Color of Foliage in October: No Change

Flowering Season: Spring

Flowers: Tightly Clustered  

Type of Flower: Colorful Flower

Color of Flower: White 

Shape of Individual Flower: Radially Symmetrical

Size of Individual Flower: Smaller than a Quarter  

Sexuality: Male and Female Flowers on Separate Plants

Size of Fruit: Smaller than a Quarter 

Fruit Fleshiness: Fleshy 

Shape of Fruit: Spherical   

Color of Fruit at Maturity: Red

Fruit Desirable to Birds or Squirrels: Yes      

Louisville Plants That Are Most Easily Confused With This One: English Holly Tree

Unique Morphological Features of Plant: Produces spines on the edges of their leaves.

Poisonous: Part of Plant   

Pestiness (weedy, hard to control): No


Page prepared by: 

Gabe Tanner & Ashley Lewallen   

November  2004

How Long Does A Holly Tree Live?

Holly trees are beautiful trees and are often used for holiday decorations. Maybe you have a holly tree in your landscape and are wondering how long it will live. Perhaps you are considering planting a new holly tree on your land and would like to know the expected lifespan of the tree. We have researched these questions and more for this post. 

Holly trees can live at least 100 years or more. Common Holly trees are also known as European Holly. There are several records of Holly trees in Europe living well over 150 years. The oldest Holly tree on record is over 600 years old in Spain.  

Now you know the Holly tree has a long life span. You probably wonder how you can figure out the age of an existing holly tree. If you're considering adding Holly to your landscape, then you might want to know the potential uses of the tree. Finally, you would like to learn about the berries of the Holly tree. Are they edible, what are the uses, and how long do they last? We will answer all of those questions. Keep reading to learn more. 

How Old Do Holly Trees Live?

Holly is a genus with over 400 species, so the answer can vary based on which particular species. Holly trees can live over 100 years. The oldest tree on record is over 620 years old, located near Arroyo de Mondigo in Spain. There are several other Holly trees recorded on the website, Monumental Trees. The website includes 15 records of European Holly trees that are over the age of 110 years old. All of the trees in the database are located in Europe. 

Holly trees are a kind of evergreen tree. Evergreens are known to have long lifespans. Other trees that are in the evergreen family include pine and conifer. These trees can age to be over 500 years, with documented trees as old as 800 years. Holly trees don't have the same lifespan as pines and conifers but do have other benefits that might make them a good choice for your property. 

How Tall Do Holly Trees Grow?

European and American Holly trees can be expected to grow to heights between 30 and 50 feet tall. Monumental Trees also includes records for height. The tallest Holly tree recorded on the website is 82 feet tall in the United Kingdom and is a European Holly. Japanese Holly trees will grow up to 10-15 feet tall. Meanwhile, Bordeaux is a dwarf variety of the Holly genus. It grows up to be only 2-3 feet tall and is a dense shrub that spreads 3-5 feet. 

How Can You Tell the Age Of A Holly Tree?

The best way to get an approximate age of a Holly tree is to measure the circumference of the trunk. You can do this by first measuring from the base of the trunk up 4-5 feet. Wrap the measuring tape around the trunk at this spot to get the circumference in inches. Multiply this number by 2.54, which will convert the number to centimeters. Divide this number by 1.25 to obtain the approximate age of the tree. A Holly tree trunk grows in 1.25 centimeters of girth per year. 

What Are Holly Trees Good For?

Holly trees are beneficial to landscaping. They make great hedge plants and privacy fencing. These are evergreen shrubs or trees that are easy to prune to keep uniform in shape while also filling in to create privacy on your property. If you are interested in a privacy hedge, check out this article to find other suitable plants, 17 Best Privacy Bushes And Shrubs.

Winterberry Holly Shrub XL Fruit

Click here to buy Winterberry Holly Shrub XL Fruit from Amazon. 

Holly trees are most commonly known for Christmas decorations. Deck the halls with boughs of holly. You can create your own Christmas Holly wreaths or garland by cutting off branches from your tree. This is a good craft project to personalize your holiday decorations with branches that come from your property. 

Holly trees also have medicinal benefits. The berries are not edible and are considered poisonous. It is the leaf of the Holly plant that is used to make medicinal tea. According to RX List, this tea has been used for coughs, illness, digestive issues, joint pain, arthritis, high blood pressure, and dizziness. Holly tea also contains caffeine and can be used as a coffee replacement.

To make Holly tea, you should gather the leaves of the plant. You can dry and steam them, which is the same process as making green tea. Another option is to roast the leaves, which is the process that is used to make black tea. Use about a teaspoon of ground leaves for one cup of tea with the same approximate caffeine as black tea. If you wish to make a tea with the same caffeine level as coffee, then the result may be too bitter for your taste. 

When Do Holly Bushes Get Berries?

A newly planted Holly bush or tree will start to get berries after about 4-5 years. The berries begin to turn red and ripen in autumn. They do stay on the tree through the Winter, which makes Holly branches a common Christmas decoration. These berries may be eaten by squirrels, birds, or other animals.

Holly berries are very toxic for humans, cats, and dogs. Take caution in protecting your children, pets, and family from eating the berries that may otherwise look edible. 

How Long Do Holly Berries Last?

Holly berries remain on the tree from Autumn through Winter but are often eaten completely by birds and squirrels. If you are cutting Holly branches to use as Christmas decorations, then you can expect the berries to look presentable for 2-3 weeks if you store them in the refrigerator. If you prefer Christmas decorations that are non-perishable and reusable, you can buy artificial Holly decorations from Amazon.  

Click here to buy Artificial Holly Garland Holiday Decoration from Amazon. 

Are Holly Trees Easy To Maintain?

Some gardeners and landscapers prefer trees that don't require a lot of maintenance. All species of Holly are considered low maintenance. They do not require regular pruning like many other trees, but you should make sure to cut off any dead branches.

You may decide to prune some dwarf varieties to make an even-looking hedgerow. You may also choose to prune a larger variety to keep it smaller. Other than that, the only other time you need to interact with your holly tree is to remove branches for holiday decorations. 

You can learn about more low-maintenance plants that are beneficial for your garden by reading this post, 15 Low Maintenance Evergreen Shrubs For Your Garden.

In Closing

Holly trees can live to be well over 100 years. The lifespan depends on a variety of factors, including the species of Holly. The oldest Holly tree on record is over 600 years old and is the European Holly species known as Common Holly. It is most often associated with Christmas as a popular decoration for wreaths and garland. 

Holly trees have beautiful berries, but they are highly toxic if eaten. It has some practical benefits for your landscape, garden, and the leaves also have medicinal benefits when steeped in water to make tea. The Holly plant can be planted as a privacy hedge. It can fill in to effectively create a privacy fence and reduce the noise that comes from neighboring properties. 

planting and care in the open field, species and varieties with photos and names

The genus holly has about 400 species distributed in tropical and temperate regions. Deciduous or evergreen shrubs or trees with serrated, prickly, sometimes entire leaves; small, dioecious, axillary flowers and berry-like fruits. Branches, common holly, fortified over the entrance to the dwelling drove away evil spirits, even before the founding of Rome.

The holly branches were used by the Baltic, Celtic, Slavic and Scandinavian peoples almost everywhere where this shrub is found. Holly branches are constantly found in Christmas wreaths and garlands in Europe, on gift cards and packaging.

Moisture-loving, shade-tolerant. Holly is propagated by seeds and vegetatively; seeds must be stratified for 18 months before sowing. The holly does not tolerate transplantation well; keeps the shape given by the haircut for a long time. Excellent ornamental shrub for the south.

Types and varieties of holly

Wrinkled holly

Grows in the Far East: on Sakhalin, in Primorye. It grows in both fir-spruce and cedar-spruce forests.

Wrinkled holly is an evergreen creeping or low shrub. Evergreen low growing shrub, 0.5 m tall. There is no flowering. Winter hardiness is not high (partially freezes over). Not recommended for landscaping.

Wrinkled holly is an evergreen shrub growing in the Sikhote-Alin under the canopy of Ayan spruce forests in single specimens or in small groups. Wrinkled holly is common in Sakhalin, the southern Kuriles. Other types of holly are found under the canopy of beech forests in the Balkans, the Caucasus, Asia Minor, tropical and subtropical regions of South America and Asia, the Kuriles and Sakhalin. Wrinkled holly is the oldest representative of the Far Eastern flora.

Wrinkled holly grew in the Tertiary time with magnolia, beech, which died out in Primorye, but miraculously survived in the Kuriles. The wrinkled holly grows in spruce forests in Sikhote-Alin only because here the shrub protects the snow cover in winter, and in summer there is high humidity.

Holly holly

Grows wild in southern Europe, Asia Minor, North America.

Holly holly - an evergreen plant, sometimes a tree 15 m in height, with spreading, short branches forming a dense oblong or pyramidal crown. Holly leaves are short-petiolate, oblong-ovate, with a wavy margin and large, prickly, triangular teeth. The flowers are fragrant, white, on short stalks. Fruits up to 1 cm, spherical, bright red, in racemes on stalks remain on the branches all winter.

Holly holly grows slowly, is very shade-tolerant, frost-resistant, can tolerate temperatures as low as -22°C. In central Russia, it is not able to winter, and can only grow in winter gardens.

Forms beautifully into beautiful pyramidal and spherical trees. Lives for about 100 years. There are many forms that differ in the shape of the crown, the color and shape of the leaf, the color of the fruit.

Holly holly also grows in the North Caucasus. There it grows in spruce, fir and beech forests.

Caucasian plants are slightly different from European plants and therefore they are divided into 2 similar species - Colchis holly, with small stones and strongly incised leaf veins, and narrow-fruited holly, with narrow stones and large foliage.

The birthplace of the Colchis holly is Transcaucasia and Asia Minor. In its homeland - a tree with drooping branches or a creeping shrub. In Russia, in the middle lane, the shrub grows no more than half a meter in height. The leaves are toothed, prickly, leathery, dark green. Sometimes it can freeze to a snow cover, but it will quickly recover.

Ornate holly

Ornate holly Kuril Islands and Sakhalin.

Tree 7 m high, rarely shrub. Holly gourd is decorative with dense greenery, reminiscent of boxwood. In Japan, the holly is bred with dwarf, trimmed bushes. In culture in the Crimea and the Caucasus, it grew slowly and bore little fruit.

Undersized varieties grow in the gardens of Moscow gardeners.

A novelty for our flower growers is a hybrid of Korean holly, common and wrinkled holly, which received its name mezerva holly. It is this hybrid that withstands frosts near Moscow.

There are a number of cultivars, for example ' Blue Maid ' which has both male and female flowers on the same plant, leaves are green without a metallic sheen and are not as showy as ' Blue Angel '. Unisex: ' Blue Prince ', ' Blue Princess '. Most varieties have red and yellow fruits. The fruits on the bushes remain all winter, and the branches of the holly, with dark green leaves and red fruits in Western Europe, serve as a decoration for Christmas.

But among evergreen hollies there are also deciduous species.

Very decorative whorled holly native to North America. Found in swamps and stream banks.

Its amazingly beautiful branches, covered with orange round fruits that persist in winter, contrast well with the whiteness of the snow and the faded green of coniferous trees and shrubs.

Sometimes the branches of this holly can be found in flower shops. Whorled holly deserves a more careful attitude from landscapers and flower growers. He loves fresh humus soils and a shady southern location in the garden.


Holly should be planted in a shady place with rich, light and moist soil. Holly is contraindicated in sunny places.

Holly can be damaged by the winter sun and needs to be protected from bright rays. The holly does not tolerate drought well.

Holly care

Young plants should be covered in spring to protect them from the sun.

Holly propagation

Holly is propagated by cuttings, layering.

Use of holly in landscape design

Very effective in winter when it is decorated with bright fruits. Holly is used in group plantings, on the edges and in the undergrowth.

The holly is the mythical brother of the oak. Why is he interesting? | Plants

Hollies grow in tropical and temperate latitudes. They are quite resilient, but do not survive in regions with frosty winters.

The Irish poem "The Song of the Forest Trees" contains these lines:

Of all the trees that grow in the forest,
The only worthy holly is to wear a crown.

King Holly and King Oak are characters from English folklore. They are shown as eternal opponents, each of them personifies half of the year: the Oak is the light part, the Holly is the dark part. No wonder the holly feels comfortable in partial shade and even shade. Its seeds are able to germinate and rise in the most remote corner of a dark forest. Even the winter sun can burn and destroy its seedlings.

In Celtic mythology, the holly is the evergreen brother of the oak. The brothers are in constant enmity, but they cannot live without each other. They symbolize the dualism in nature. According to the Druidic lunar calendar, the oak governs the light part of the year, the holly the dark part, and without a fight they do not yield to one another power.

According to popular belief, if the holly has a high yield, that is, it is strong, then a harsh winter is expected.

Interestingly, despite its poisonousness, the prickly handsome man symbolizes rejuvenation, growth, hope and joy. In the countries of Western Europe, a branch of holly with red fruits is, along with mistletoe, an indispensable attribute of Christmas.

According to popular belief, holly protects against witchcraft and lightning. As you know, lightning most often hits the oak, but it bypasses the holly. Since ancient times, in many countries, in order to drive away evil spirits, a holly was planted near dwellings or its branches were hung over the entrance. The Irish were playing it safe: the holly was not planted near the houses, so as not to scare away the good fairies.

The master of the dark season has magical power; It is no coincidence that the magic wand of a modern boy with a magical gift - Harry Potter, is made from a holly branch, or holly. In the old days, they believed that a spear with a holly shaft would certainly bring victory to the warrior and save his life in the most cruel fight.

In biblical legends, the holly symbolizes the suffering of Christ: the thorny leaves are suffering, and the red fruit is blood. Also, according to biblical legends, it was believed that in ancient times the holly berries were white, they turned red from the blood of the Savior.

Nowadays holly is valued as an ornamental crop. The leathery, dark green or bicolor glossy leaves, in most species with thorns at the ends, look very impressive. It blooms with inconspicuous, but fragrant flowers. But its most important advantage is the drupe fruits, popularly called berries. Basically, they are painted in a rich red color, they remain on the branches all winter. There is no need for a better Christmas tree for the New Year: the dense evergreen crown is strewn with bright lanterns.

There are species with black, orange, yellow, white fruits. It is necessary to know that the fruits are very poisonous - they contain the toxic substance ilicin. Two dozen fruits eaten cause severe poisoning and can even be fatal. For birds, this poison is not dangerous, holly berries are an excellent winter food. In addition, birds contribute to the spread of holly, spreading seeds around the neighborhood.

The most common holly is a shrub or tree up to 9 meters in height, lives up to 100 years. Hollies can be planted as windbreaks on sea coasts - they are resistant to soil salinity. Holly also makes an excellent hedge.

Hollies are dioecious, so two plants must be planted close to each other to produce fruit. Holly at the Missouri Botanical Garden, USA

All hollies contain large amounts of caffeine and other biologically active substances.

Since ancient times, North American Indians have been preparing a drink called black tea from the shoots and leaves of a local holly species. From the Paraguayan holly they prepare the famous drink mate, from the Chinese holly - the healing drink kudin.

In regions with cold winters, holly will not naturally grow. But lovers can grow a small tree or bush at home. True, for its good development, it will be necessary to provide the plant with a winter dormant period.

There are self-pollinating varieties, such as 'Pyramdalis', which has beautiful green-yellow leaves without thorns, young shoots are purple, fruits are bright red.

Nowadays, by crossing the Korean holly and the common European holly, a frost-resistant variety has been obtained, but it is still difficult to acquire it.

Holly is valued by artisans as an excellent material for creating interesting bonsai compositions.

Hollies can be affected by late blight, which causes root rot. Affected plants are destroyed, this should be done in a timely manner to avoid the spread of infection to other plants.

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