USA Official State Tree of Delaware

American Holly

(Aquifoliaceae Ilex opaca aiton)
Adopted on May 1, 1939.

The American Holly, Aquifoliaceae Ilex opaca aiton, is regarded as one of Delaware's most important forest trees. Often called Christmas holly or evergreen holly, the tree has dark, thorny-leaved foliage and red berries.

In Delaware, the tree can reach a maximum of 60 feet in height and a trunk diameter of 20 inches.

When the Pilgrims landed the week before Christmas in 1620 on the coast of what is now Massachusetts, the evergreen, prickly leaves and red berries of American holly (Ilex opaca) reminded them of the English holly (Ilex aquifolium), a symbol of Christmas for centuries in England and Europe (13,26). Since then American holly, also called white holly or Christmas holly, has been one of the most valuable and popular trees in the Eastern United States for its foliage and berries, used for Christmas decorations, and for ornamental plantings.

Delaware Code
305. State tree.
The American holly ( Ilex opaca, Aiton ) is adopted as the state tree. (42 Del. Laws, c. 86; 29 Del. C. 1953, 505.)
  • Leaf: Alternate, simple, and persistant, thickened and leathery, eliptical in shape, 2 to 4 inches long, dark green and shiny above, pale green below with entire or spiney-toothed margins.
  • Flower: Dioecious, dull green-white, male flowers on 3 to 7 flowered cymes, female flowers are solitary with a pleasant odor. Flowers apparent April to June.
  • Fruit: A berrylike drupe, red, rarely yellow when ripe, 1/4 inch in diameter, containing ribbed nutlets. Maturing September to October, persisting on tree into winter.
  • Twig: Slender with rust-colored pubescence.
  • Bark: Light gray, with prominent warts.
  • Form: A small tree, with a thick crown and pyramidal form, usually with branches to the ground.
Taxonomic Hierarchy
Kingdom Plantae -- Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta -- Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida Dicotyledons
Subclass Rosidae
Order Celastrales
Family Aquifoliaceae Holly family
Genus Ilex L. holly
Species Ilex opaca Ait. American holly

Dendrology at Virginia Tech
U.S. Department of Agriculture