Holly, an ornamental tree or shrub. There are nearly 300 species, mostly evergreens, throughout temperate and tropical regions of the world. Holly ranges in size from small shrubs to trees more than 60 feet (18 m) tall. Its leaves often have spiny margins. The small flowers are usually white or greenish. The fruit is a red, black, or yellow berrylike drupe containing several hard stones.
English holly, grown along the Pacific coast of North America as well as in England, may reach a height of 40 feet (12 m). It is often used as a hedge. Its glossy, dark green leaves have indented edges with spines at the points. Clusters of bright red berries appear on the female tree. In medicine, an extract of the berries has been used as a purgative and emetic, and an extract of the bark to reduce fever. The dense, hard, white wood is used for furniture and bowls.
Common American holly may grow 50 feet (15 m) high. It resembles English holly, but has duller leaves and less colorful berries. The wood is similar to that of English holly.
Other species include the inkberry, a hardy shrub of eastern North America; and the smooth winterberry, grown from Maine to Georgia for its showy, orange-red fruit. The leaves of a South American species are used in brewing a kind of tea called maté.
The English holly is Ilex aquifolium; American, I. opaca; inkberry, I. glabra; smooth winterberry, I. laevigaia; maté, I. Paraguayensis. All belong to the holly family, Aquifoliaceae.