American Holly (Ilex Opaca)
Common name: Holly, Scientific name: Ilex

"The wand chooses the wizard. That much has always been clear to those of us who have studied wandlore... These connections are complex. An initial attraction, and then a mutual quest for experience, the wand learning from the wizard, the wizard from the wand."
Garrick Ollivander, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone


American Holly is a small tree, or sometimes considered a large shrub, that can grow to be about 50-60 feet. It is very identifiable, with a light gray bark and dark green leathery leaves that can occasionally be shiny. The leaves also sometimes are prickly or contain little warts or bumps on them. The flowers tend to be small and white while the berries, which are only found on female plants, are bright red in color. American Holly grows under the forest trees and is a good source of food for many animals such as birds, chipmunks, squirrels, and deer. In return, these animals play a role in spreading the seeds to make new trees. Insects are also important to the plant because insects help pollinate the flowers. [1] American Holly is mostly native to the northeast, however, Holly can be found from Massachusetts to Florida, to eastern Texas. It's a plant that many people can look at and immediately tell what it is and is also very well know to people during the Holiday season because it decorates many peoples homes.


Physical Characteristics Taxonomy

Holly Scientific Information
I. opaca

American Holly plants can range between 10-30 meters long and have leaves that are about five to seven centimeters in length. The bark is a light gray color and usually has lumps covering the trunk. The leaves are a bright green color and can be shiny or more matte-like in appearance. The leaves are a lighter green on their underside and the plant has small white flowers. American Holly plants can either be male or female and you can tell which ones are female because the females have bright red berries on them.[2]

Meet the Relatives

American Holly is part of the Aquifoliaceae family and there are about 400 to about 600 flowering plants in that family. These plants tend to be evergreen, deciduous trees and shrubs. Some of relatives in the Aquifoliaceae family include: the Carolina Holly, the famous English Holly, Dahoon, Mountain Winterberry, and other types of Holly and WInterberry.[3]

This is a picture of a Mountain Winterberry

Magical Use

No two magical wands are exactly the same and Harry Potter's wand was made out of Holly. Holly is a rare wand wood and it is considered protective. It works for those who are known to be very angry people or those who tend to act without thinking. Holly wands are chosen for those who tend to have some sort of dramatic or spiritual quest. Holly is a wood that varies dramatically in performance when it is paired with different wand cores. Harry chose to use the Holly wand because it felt the most right to him.[4]

Muggle Use

American Holly has a variety of different uses. The wood can be used for whip handles, carving blocks, and occasionally cabinetry. Sometimes the wood is dyed to look like ebony and used a substitute if need be. Though Holly is safe to eat for animals, American Holly is dangerous and poisonous to humans so it is recommended that humans do not eat the red berry as tempting as it may be. Holly is also considered an ornamental plant but is most widely known for being a popular winter decoration and is used a lot during the Christmas and holiday season. It is popular during this time because it is known for being merry and representing the gathering that happens during the holiday season. [5]

holly wreath.jpg
Most people are used to see American Holly as decoration around the holidays

Geographical Distribution

American Holly is usually found as the understory in many forests. It is considerably hard to find north of southern Connecticut and in eastern New York. However, when you travel down the east coast towards the south, American Holly becomes more prominent down near the Gulf states and becomes even more abundant in southern Arkansas and eastern Texas. Holly is located in more subtropical and temperate locations as pictured on the map.[6]


Wild Card!

When you first see or think of Holly you think of Christmas time. Christmas wreaths, decorations, and everything being full of joy and happiness. If you are a Harry Potter fan, you think of the countless number of spells he's used with his wand made of Holly and how he was able survive with the help of his protecting wand. But what if you were an early Roman during the winter solstice? Then what would you think of Holly? Well surprisingly, if you would think of Holly as a combination between the two. During winter solstice, Romans would decorate their homes, especially the fireplace, with Holly. See, they used it as a decoration too. Since it was winter solstice and the Romans knew the sun would be showing itself more and more, they used the Holly as a sign of celebrating, the coming out of the darkness, and it was also their protector. They believed the Holly would protect them from misfortunes such as lightning or evil spirits that may make their way through the chimney. The Romans took our vision of holly as a winter decoration and Harry Potter's view of Holly as a protector and combined them.

  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^'s_wand
  5. ^
  6. ^