Water-saving Native Plant of The Week

By: Woodlands Water | Published 11/10/2020

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THE WOODLANDS, TX -- 

Small Trees - Late fall and winter are the times to plant trees. For the next few months, we'll be highlighting trees that are native, have low water needs and are particularly attractive to our area.

American Holly (Ilex opaca)- American holly or "Christmas holly" can grow to 60 ft. in southeast Texas and other warmer parts of its range. It's much larger than it's punier (though more aggressive) cousin - yaupon (also called "Houston Holly"). The stout, stiff branches of this pyramidal evergreen bear dark green, non-glossy, spine-tipped leaves. New growth finally pushes off the old leaves in spring. Bright red berries occur on the female plants. Like all hollies, American holly is dioecious, which means there are male and female versions of the species. A shorter, multi-trunked form may grow in lower light situations. The bark is a light gray color. The evergreen fruiting branches from wild and planted trees are popular Christmas decorations. Many improved varieties are grown for ornament, shade, and hedges. You must have both a male and female plant to have berries, or at least have the opposite sex growing wild somewhere nearby. The male must be the same holly species as the female and bloom at the same time. This is a very slow-growing tree. The whitish, fine-textured wood is especially suited for inlays in cabinetwork, handles, carvings, and rulers, and can be dyed various shades, even black. Many kinds of songbirds, gamebirds, and mammals eat the bitter berries of this and other hollies, but the fruits are poisonous to humans. It likes moist, well-drained, acidic soils from sand to loamy soil but does not perform as well in clay. For clay soils in areas of high humidity (like The Woodlands), cultivar Savannah is recommended. Drought tolerant once established. American holly is the larval host for Henrys Elfin butterfly.

By: Bob Dailey

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