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HOLLY

Ilex spp.

Ilex spp. of the family Aquifoliaceae

There are many Ilex species in North America but I don't know how many of them product lumber that is sold as holly. Generally, you will see it listed as Ilex opaca but I don't know how reliable that is.

The tree is slow-growing and usually quite small, so the wood is rare, particuarly in any substantial size, and it is likely to have knots which further reduces the sizes available for some applications. There are occasional trees that are up to 2 feet in diameter and 60 feet high, so there are, rarely, planks available. Many reports say that the tree has to be cut in winter, milled, and put into a kiln almost immediately and dried carefully or the wood will warp and/or develop serious blue-stain and/or turn gray which really ruins the white color that is this wood's claim to fame. BUT ... I am assured by a very knowledgeable sawyer in Illinois that you can cut it in summer and make it come out just fine IF you mill it the same day you cut the tree down and put it somewhere dry.

Fine-grained and nearly devoid of figure, this moderately expensive wood is used mostly for small objects. It is a terrific contrast-color wood that turns well, glues well, and works well in general.



my samples:


sample piece and end grain sold to me as holly / Ilex opaca --- the color is NOT correct; this wood is WHITE, not yellow.


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank sold to me as American holly / Ilex opaca


end grain and end grain closeup of the sample plank directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of American holly / Ilex opaca --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above --- the slightly yellowish color is correct. The fine grain detail is not nearly as sharp in this piece as it is in the sample directly above this one.


both sides of a piece of American holly / Ilex attentuata --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. Note that the first face was sanded to 240 grit and the second face was not and this accounts for the better resolution of the detail characteristics as seen in the first one and also for the fact that the blotchiness seen on the second side is not seen on the first side.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of holly --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. Both the end grain update and the sanded face grain look EXACTLY like the sample of American holly / Ilex attentuata directly above but this piece is from a different source who VERY mistakenly listed this as Southern willow / Salix caroliniana) so Mark and I are not positive that it is Ilex attentuata.

Also, Mark has reminded me to point out that "Ilex attentuata" is more correctly listed as Ilex x attentuata with the "x" signifying that it is a hybrid, in this case a hybrid between Ilex opaca (American holly and Ilex cassine (Dahoon holly). It is known as East Palatka Holly in the landscape trade and is just coming into availability in the woodworking craft trade in the southeast USA.

Note that the second face was sanded to 240 grit and the first face was not and this accounts for minor differences in color between the two and the better resolution of the detail characteristics as seen in the second one. The color correction was difficult on this one but this is very close and the slight reddish tint is correct.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Dahoon holly / Ilex cassine --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. This species is also known as Florida holly (among other names)


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Dahoon holly / Ilex cassine) --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. Note that the first face was sanded to 240 grit and the second face was not and this accounts for minor differences in color between the two (the second face still has a light patina) and the better resolution of the detail characteristics as seen in the first one. I note that the end grain does not seem to show the dendritic pore patterns that are normal for Ilex species so I am not convinced that this piece is properly identified. The person Mark got it from had it listed as shown but he might have been wrong, BUT ... the sample directly above also has very vague (at best dendritic patterns) so both might be right or both might be wrong. In this particular case, I lean towards both being right.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of large leaf holly / Ilex monticola --- HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of Japanese holly / Ilex chinensis --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of vietnamese holly / Ilex rotunda --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. In the USA this is known as round leaf holly.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of mountain holly / Ilex mucronta --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of English holly / Ilex acquifolium --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank sold to me as English holly / "Osmanthus aquifolia" --- actual wood is slightly more pink that what shows up here; the end grain closeup below is very accurate in color. I note that (1) Osmanthus aquifolia is a mis-spelling of Osmanthus aquifolium (2) Osmanthus aquifolium has the common name "false holly", and (3) this is not a holly at all (not genus Ilex). This is confirmed by the significant difference in dendritic pore groups in the end grain between this and the Ilex species. I have left it on this page because I have nowhere else to put it and it DOES have "holly" in a couple of its common names.


end grain and end grain closeup of the sample plank directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of winterberry holly / Ilex verticellata --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


both sides of a sample plank of cape holly / Ilex mitis --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by Mark Peet whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. This is one of those pieces that was not dried properly and so turned gray.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


plank and end grain --- the actual wood is not as dingy as it appears here; it is more white, although certainly not milk-white


end grain closeup of the piece directly above


plank shot in a lumber yard --- HUGE enlargements are present


end grain and end grain closeup of a piece of spalted holly, milled and contributed to the site by Funktionhouse, with my thanks.


This veneer sheet was loaned to me by John Koehn whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site.



This is not an Ilex but it does have holly as a common name and looks quite a bit like the Ilexes so I have put it on this page, but separated here from the rest of the hollys. Nemopanthus is one of over 20 genera that have woods that use holly as all or part of one or more of their common names and one of the names of another wood in this genus is "false holly".


both sides of a sample plank of holly, mountain / Nemopanthus mucronatus (the vendor had the specific epithet misspelled as mucronathus) --- HUGE enlargements are present. This sample was loaned to me by David Clark whom I thank for this and other contributions to the site. The color on this piece is not quite right. The wood is really just an off-white with a very slight green tinge but this is the best color correction I was able to do. The first side has been fine sanded so looks a bit different than the second side


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above. Most of the orange color in this is not the wood but the fine particles from the 1200 grit sandpaper I used.


both sides of a sample plank of emetic holly (aka yaupon) / Ilex vomitoria --- HUGE enlargements are present.


end grain and end grain closeup of the piece directly above


END GRAIN UPDATE from directly above


The Wood Book pics


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
American holly (Ilex opaca) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for all 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
mountain holly (Ilex monticola aka large-leaf holly) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for all 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
cassena holly (Ilex cassine aka dahoon and Henerson wood) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for all 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
swamp holly (Ilex decidua aka deciduous holly) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for all 3 views


flat cut, quartersawn, end grain
evergreen holly (Ilex vomitoria, listed in the Wood Book as cassena and yaupon) from The Wood Book --- both levels of enlargement are available for each of the 3 views. I note that the specific epithet is "vomitoria" and one of the common names is "emetic holly" and I conclude that SOMETHING about this tree is not friendly to the human digestive track.



web pics:




pen blanks. If I had never seen this wood I would NEVER believe the color but I have seen the wood and I do believe the color.


lumber


log end showing greyish sapwood and a lot of dark gray heartwood


planks and slabs


curly holly thinwood pair; pic provided by Todd Levy (thanks, Todd)


planks


planks listed as European holly / Ilex aquifolium


planks and turning stock listed as holly / Ilex opaca


plank listed as European holly


slabs listed as holly / Ilex opaca


log listed as holly / Ilex opaca


turning stock


bowl blanks --- I'm not sure about the color on these


pen blanks


misc with unlikely pink color (these are probably pure white and badly photographed)


turning stock specifically listed as "white" holly, but I think that's redundant


spalted turning blocks / end grain. Pics contributed by Funktionhouse, with my thanks.


spalted stump


veneer


flat cut veneer listed as holly / Ilex aquifolium




bowls by Bryan Nelson (NelsonWood). Bryan fine-polishes his bowls with 1200 or even higher grit sandpaper while they are spinning at high speed on the lathe and then finishes them there with a friction polish of his own devising, thus achieving a shine and color vibrancy that is beautiful to behold. These are all about 6" across.


bowls


American holly bowls turned and photographed by Tom Pleatman, whom I thank for these pics and other contributions to the site. Big enlargements are present.


spalted hollow form