holly, common name for members of the Aquifoliaceae, a family of widely distributed trees and shrubs, most numerous in Central and South America. The evergreen English holly (Ilex aquifolium), the common holly of Europe, cultivated also in North America, is closely associated with Christmas tradition. The American holly (I. opaca), native to the E United States, is very similar; both are so popular for their decorative spiny leaves and red berries that they are becoming scarce. The hard white wood of both species is used for cabinetmaking and related purposes; it is close grained and polishes easily. Maté, Yerba maté, or Paraguay tea (I. paraguariensis) is very important commercially in S South America as the source of a popular tealike beverage. Guayusa (I. guayusa) is similarly important in Ecuador. Teas and medicinal preparations are also made from some other members of the family, e.g., yaupon and winterberry, or feverbush, both of E North America. Wild or mountain holly (Nemopanthus mucronata) is a deciduous shrub of E North America. Many species of this family are cultivated as ornamentals. Holly is classified in the division Magnoliophyta, class Magnoliopsida, order Celastrales, family Aquifoliaceae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Plants