Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Dahoon Holly - Ilex cassine   L.
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Section 6 » Order Celastrales » Family Aquifoliaceae
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DistributionStrictly in the southeastern part of the state, known only from Carteret, Columbus, Brunswick, and New Hanover counties. Also photographed by Alan Weakley in Moore County; out of natural range and treated here as provenance uncertain.

This is a Southern Coastal Plain species, ranging north only to southeastern NC, and then south through all of FL and to LA, and barely in TX.
AbundanceRare; found at only a handful of sites in the state, though can be numerous at one or two of them, such as in Carolina Beach State Park. This is a Watch List species in the state.
HabitatThis is a species of blackwater swamps, cypress ponds, wet areas within pocosins, and other wet, strongly acidic soils.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June; fruits in October and November, persisting through the winter.
IdentificationThis is one of the few evergreen hollies in the state, being a small tree growing to 15-25 feet tall. It has dark green, thick, and shiny (as would most evergreens) leaves that are somewhat variable in width. Most are oblanceolate to obovate (wider above the middle), with a few spiny teeth near the tip; they average 2-3 inches long, and are about 2-3 times as long as wide. In addition, the branches are somewhat virgate, coming off the stem at angles of less than 45 degrees, on average. The similar I. myrtifolia, with which it used to be considered as varieties of the same species, has narrower leaves and more wide-spreading branches. As with many hollies, inexperienced observers may not notice this species in a pocosin or swamp unless or until they see the bright red “berries” in fall and winter.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil the last few decades, it was often considered as the same species as I. myrtifolia. This taxon was thus named as I. cassine var. cassine. Nearly all recent references have these as good species now.

Other Common Name(s)Dahoon, Cassena, Cassine, Cassine Holly
State RankS2
Global RankG5
State StatusW1
US Status
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B.A. Sorrie.Photo taken 1994, St. Marks NWR, FL. Photo_non_NCPhoto_non_NC
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