More Than Just Decoration

Nature Academy

While we may not get snow during the holidays, you can still find reminders of the season outdoors. Just recently Stewardship staff found this American holly tree (Ilex opaca) along the Parcours trail at Triple Creek park. Many people are familiar with hollies from Christmas decorations and landscaping plants, but did you know they are native to Ohio?

American holly_TC_2014.12

American hollies typically reach 15–30 feet in height but have been known to grow as tall as 100 feet. The inconspicuous flowers are greenish-white, so you may not notice them blooming from April to June. Hollies are dioecious, which means the male and female flowers are located on separate plants of the same species and require cross-pollination. Berries form by late summer and can remain until winter.

You’ve probably already noticed that this tree does not seem to have berries. What would your guess be as to why? There are several potential answers, some more likely than others. First, the plant may be too young to flower or produce fruit. Although, judging by the size and slow growth of hollies, that is probably not the reason. Second, the berries may have been eaten, since they provide food for 18 bird species as well as deer and other mammals. However, unless animals picked it completely clean, there would probably be a few berries remaining. The most likely option is that this is a male plant, which produces staminate flowers and therefore no berries.

American holly leaves_TC_2014.12

Jessica Spencer, Natural Resource Manger