Ilex x attenuata: 'East Palatka' Holly1
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.
Scientific name: Ilex x attenuata
Pronunciation: EYE-lecks x uh-ten-yoo-AY-tuh
Common name(s): 'East Palatka' holly
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
Height: 30 to 45 feet
Spread: 10 to 15 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: pyramidal, columnar
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
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
Flower color: greenish white
Flower characteristics: not showy
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
Trunk and Branches
Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; no thorns
Bark: gray, smooth, and thin
Pruning requirement: little required
Current year twig color: green
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: unknown
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.