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Ilex x attenuata: 'East Palatka' Holly1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean 2


Discovered in 1927 growing near East Palatka, Florida, this holly is one of a group of hybrids between Ilex cassine x Ilex opaca. The broad, dull green, rounded leaves have one spine at the tip and few, if any, along the blade edge. The 30 to 45-foot-tall trees take on a moderately tight, pyramidal shape. A female holly plant, East Palatka holly is heavily laden with bright red berries in fall and winter, especially toward the top of the tree. A row of East Palatka hollies will look quite uniform, adding to the popularity of the tree among landscape architects and designers.

Figure 1. Full Form - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Figure 1.  Full Form - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Credit: UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Ilex x attenuata

Pronunciation: EYE-lecks x uh-ten-yoo-AY-tuh

Common name(s): 'East Palatka' holly

Family: Aquifoliaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 7A through 9B (Figure 2)

Origin: native to wherever I. cassine and I. opaca naturally occur in close enough proximity to cross pollinate, and thus hybridize; currently central Florida northward

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: native

Uses: hedge; container or planter; screen; specimen; street without sidewalk; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100-200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 3-4 feet wide; tree lawn 4-6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; urban tolerant; highway median

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range


Height: 30 to 45 feet

Spread: 10 to 15 feet

Crown uniformity: symmetrical

Crown shape: pyramidal, columnar

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: spiny, entire, terminal spine

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval), oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: dark green

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Leaf - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Figure 3.  Leaf - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Credit: UF/IFAS


Flower color: greenish white

Flower characteristics: not showy

Flowering: spring


Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: < ½ inch

Fruit covering: fleshy drupe

Fruit color: red

Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; showy; fruit/leaves not a litter problem

Fruiting: fall and winter

Figure 4. Fruit - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Figure 4.  Fruit - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Credit: UF/IFAS

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; no thorns

Bark: gray, smooth, and thin

Pruning requirement: little required

Breakage: resistant

Current year twig color: green

Current year twig thickness: medium

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 5. Bark - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Figure 5.  Bark - Ilex x attenuate: 'East Palatka' holly
Credit: Gitta Hasing UF/IFAS


Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; acidic; well-drained

Drought tolerance: high

Aerosol salt tolerance: moderate


Roots: not a problem

Winter interest: yes

Outstanding tree: yes

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: resistant

Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

East Palatka holly makes a durable street tree throughout its range and is quite drought-tolerant once it becomes well-established. Most trees are sheared in the nursery, unfortunately, and this practice is often repeated in the landscape after planting. The natural shape of the tree is rarely seen but is a graceful pyramid of drooping branches growing from a strong central trunk, laden with bright red berries which remain on the trees until eaten by birds. The crown of East Palatka jolly grown with one central trunk is narrow, making it well-suited for urban areas having restricted vertical space.

Multi-stemmed, topped, and trimmed trees grow a wider crown and are probably not as suited for narrow, limited-space downtown sites as their single-stemmed counterparts. The tree should be grown with a central trunk. Young trees which are topped in the nursery grow several upright, multiple trunks. These eventually droop to the horizontal and then become more weeping, creating an unkempt, asymmetrical mess. Training the tree into a single-trunked tree will increase its durability and resistance to storm-damage, although many nurseries offer multi-trunked specimens. The tree grows well even in small tree pits carved out of downtown sidewalks.

East Palatka Holly grows quickly in full sun or partial shade on moist, acid soils. Growth is poor and foliage chlorotic on alkaline soil.

Another hybrid, `Savannah', is a fast-growing female plant which also produces abundant red berries. The foliage is light green and variably-spined.

Propagation is by cuttings or grafting.


Scale and leaf miners are the only pests which cause damage, and this is rare.


No diseases are of major concern.


Koeser, A. K., Hasing, G., Friedman, M. H., and Irving, R. B. 2015. Trees: North & Central Florida. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


1. This document is ENH473, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #ENH473

Release Date:April 30, 2019

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Part of Southern Trees Fact Sheets

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    • Andrew Koeser