|Possumhaw (Ilex decidua)|
Hybrids of American holly are used in landscaping more often than the plain species; Ilex x attenuata cultivars are crosses between Ilex opaca and the southern dahoon holly, Ilex cassine. Hybrids such as ‘Savannah,’ 'East Palatka,’ and ‘Fosteri’ are robust female plants with heavy fruit set (and fewer spines on the leaves) that require little to no cross-pollination. Some of these hybrids were found in the wild as natural crosses.
|American holly (Ilex opaca)|
|Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)|
Red-fruited hollies are not always evergreen. Georgia has at least 6 species of deciduous hollies, all of which have red fruits. The leafless winter stems of these species can be spectacular and the horticultural world has noticed. Cultivars of both possumhaw (Ilex decidua) and winterberry (Ilex verticillata) are available in the trade. When choosing, be sure to determine if you’re buying a male or a female and that you have compatible males and females eventually (you can have more females than males).
The remaining deciduous native hollies in Georgia include two in the Coastal Plain (Ilex amelanchier and Ilex ambigua) and two in the northern part of the state (Ilex montana and Ilex longipes).
Native hollies are great additions to the home landscape. They are beautiful, adaptable and important to wildlife. The small but numerous flowers are important to native bees. Gallberry honey, which is produced by European honey bees, comes from nectar gathered from Ilex coriacea and Ilex glabra. All the berries are popular with birds that eat fruit. Consider adding a regionally appropriate holly to your landscape next year.