Vascular Plants of North Carolina
Account for Myrtle Holly - Ilex myrtifolia   Walter
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Section 6 » Order Celastrales » Family Aquifoliaceae
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AuthorWalter
DistributionOnly found in the southeastern Coastal Plain, north to Craven County. However, it is found in all counties along the coast from Carteret south to the SC border, and inland to Columbus, Jones, and Pamlico counties.

This is a strictly Coastal Plain species, ranging to southeastern NC south to northern FL and eastern LA.
AbundanceUncommon to infrequent within its rather limited range in the state. Until recently, it was considered as a Watch List species, but it has been found in many new locations with more recent surveys.
HabitatThis is a species of rather high pH soil conditions. It is most frequently found around the margins of limesink ponds, but it also is found in some pine savannas and flatwoods that overlie marl or other high pH soils, preferably in wetter conditions. The closely related I. cassine favors acidic, or at least more acidic, soils than does I. myrtifolia.
PhenologyBlooms in May and June; fruits in October and November, with fruits often remaining into the winter.
IdentificationThis is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, often growing to about 15-20’ tall. Unlike the similar I. cassine, it has somewhat right-angle branching from the stem, as opposed to upright/virgate branching; the branches tend to be quite stiff and straight. The alternate leaves are very narrowly oblong, about 1-1.5” long and at least 5 times as long than wide. The leaves are thin, shiny dark green, and often have revolute but typically entire margins. Thus, it has a very distinctive look, with its very narrow and shiny dark green leaves, and the fruit are not normally necessary for conclusive identification. By late fall, the red “berries” are common or abundant along the twigs, and then this shrub has a beautiful “Christmas-y” look in early winter.
Taxonomic CommentsUntil recent decades this taxon was generally considered as a part of I. cassine, and named as I. cassine var. myrtifolia. However, nearly all recent references consider this a valid, good species.

Other Common Name(s)Myrtleleaf Holly (or a variation of this such as Myrtle-leaved Holly), Myrtle Dahoon. A number of references use “Myrtle Dahoon”, but “Dahoon” or “Dahoon Holly” is used for I. cassine; thus, this would require a corresponding modifier name for I. cassine, and these same sites have no such modifier.
State RankS3
Global RankG5?
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