The Nellie Stevens holly was “born” on the Eastern Shore in Talbot County by a sailor. He brought the English holly and the Chinese holly together to create “Nellie Stevens,” named after his wife. (Photo by Ginny Rosenkranz)

Holly branches decked with glossy green leaves and bright red berries brighten up the winter landscape and also homes during the holidays.
There are a lot of different holly from around the world that thrive in our Eastern Shore landscapes including our own Native American holly, English holly and Chinese holly.
Holly is different from many plants because each plant is either all male or all female and the females are the only ones that can grow the bright red shinny berries.
The American holly has dark green leaves which are thick and leathery with spines on the edges.
Those spines may be one of the reasons that deer are not fond of eating the American holly.
This native loves to grow in our slightly acidic soils beside the banks of streams, ponds or swamps.
They love morning sun and afternoon shade and a bit of protection from the wild winter winds.
American holly can grow 15-30 feet tall and 10-20 feet wide, creating a graceful upright pyramid.
The English holly can grow just as tall although they are not as fond of our hot humid summers as or Native holly.
Their leaves are a darker shiny green and they also have sharper spines.
English holly berries are about the same size as the American and also grow in clusters.
The Chinese holly is shorter, growing only 8-15 feet tall and wide and thrives in our hot humid weather during the summer.
The very glossy dark green leaves have very long sharp spines, but their beautiful bright red berries are almost twice as large as the American or English hollies.
These berries are arranged along the branches, highlighting the structure of the plant.
Hollies provide not only beautiful leaves and berries, they also provide shelter and food for the native birds.
All of the holly berries will last on the trees until late winter.
When there is almost nothing for the birds to eat that late in the year, the holly berries finally get ripe enough for a banquet.
(Editor’s Note: Ginny Rosenkranz is a commercial horticulture specialist with the University of Maryland Extension.)