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Dahoon holly, Dahoon
Ilex cassine

Copyright by: George D. Gann

General Landscape Uses: An excellent accent or specimen tree or large shrub in moist to wet locations, but it is intolerant of and will languish in drier soils. Learn more about gardening with dahoon holly for birds and other wildlife in Attracting Birds to South Florida Gardens.

Ecological Restoration Notes: A common element of wetland thickets and swamp margins.

Availability: Widely cultivated.

Description: Small to medium or rarely a large tree with variable crowns composed of numerous branches. Trunks often short, branching near the ground, 6-12 inches in diameter. Bark whitish to grayish to almost black, often covered with numerous lichens and other epiphytes. Leaves flat, leathery 2-4 inches long, dark above, paler beneath.

Dimensions: Typically 10-30 feet in height; to 68 feet in South Florida. Usually taller than broad.

Growth Rate: Moderate to slow.

Range: Southeastern United States west to Texas and south to Miami Dade County and the Monroe County mainland; Bahamas, Cuba, Mexico and Central America. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Swamps and moist forests.

Soils: Wet to moist, moderately well-drained to poorly-drained organic or sandy soils, often with acid pH.

Nutritional Requirements: High; requires rich organic soils for optimal growth.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate to low; requires moist to wet soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.

Flower Color: Yellowish-white.

Flower Characteristics: Inconspicuous. Dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants.

Flowering Season: All year; peak in spring.

Fruit: A 1/4" diameter drupe, usually red, sometimes yellow or orange. Mostly ripening in the fall. Edible but not tasty.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Deer browse the young growth. Attracts bee pollinators. Small mammals, turkey, quail, red-eyed vireos and a wide variety of other songbirds eat the fruits. The thick foliage provides excellent cover for small birds. It hosts a wide variety of insects and spiders, which, in turn, are eaten by many kinds of birds.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from de-pulped seed after the fruit is fully ripe. Clean and plant right away; the seeds do not store well. Plant in a container with at least 2" of soil. Sprinkle soil to just cover the seeds. Place in partial shade. Also grown from cuttings, best treated with a rooting hormone.

References: Nelson 2003, Schaefer & Tanner 1997

Comments: This small tree is excellent for low spots in the garden. The red berries make an excellent holiday decoration. See a 2018 post on the Treasure Coast Natives blog about the fruits of Dahoon Holly.

Copyright by: George D. Gann

Copyright by:

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Don & Joyce Gann

Copyright by: George D. Gann
Bark with lichens

Other data on Ilex cassine available from:

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