What’s New About A Curious Holly?

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Plant materials of ilex species have been entering this country through the Section of Plant Introduction, U.S.D.A.’s efforts since 1898. 

The first of these introductions was a shipment of seeds of I. aquifolium sent from France by W. T. Swingle, plant explorer for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. 

New HollyPin

Those seeds were given the P. I. number 1698. Wide horticultural varieties of special merit had their genesis in the following myriad introductions.

In the spring of 1925, this Section received a shipment of plants from England, presented by Vicar), Gibbs, Aldenham House Gardens. 

Among them was an ilex tentatively identified as I. fargesi Franch and given the P. I. number 62723. 

Its identification subsequently vacillated between I. fargesi and I. ciliospinosa until 1951, when Miss S. H. Hu at the Arnold Arboretum assigned it to her Ilex cenlrochinensis. 

Misnomer Of The Holly Plant

Unequivocally, I. fargesi was a misnomer for this plant since it bears little resemblance to that species. 

Miss Hu separates I. centrochinensis from I. ciliospinosa because the former bears four-seeded fruits, while the fruits of the true I. ciliospinosa are two-seeded.

With the details of technical nomenclature settled, attention may be focused on the horticultural attributes of this rare holly. 

The orange-red fruits, borne in profusion along the previous year’s branches of the female plants, reach their full brilliance by early September and remain on the plants until removed by the birds in midwinter.

No Male Plants Growing

As with I. cormaa, the fruits are parthenocarpic when no male plants are growing nearby. 

At maturity, IL. centro chinensis reaches a height of 10’ to 15’ feet. The branches start at the base, forming a rather narrow, dense plant. 

This characteristic adapts it for use as a screen with no routine pruning necessary except to chop out an occasional over-vigorous shoot for uniformity. 

The evergreen leaves fall gradually and inconspicuously in the spring after two or three years on the plant. 

Their dull-green color may make them less desirable than other species for decoration. However, the spines are soft and easy to handle when making cuttings.

I. cenfrochinensis roots about as readily as I. cornuta, but is slow-growing. 

In hardiness, this species approaches I. opaca and exceeds I. cornuta. One report describes it as having survived winters of -5° degrees Fahrenheit in Buffalo, New York.

Vigorous Male Plants

Observations at the Plant Introduction Garden, Glenn Dale, Maryland, indicate that the male plants of I. centrochinensis are generally much more vigorous than the female. 

Since, as mentioned earlier, the foliage is dull green, other hollies should be relied upon for decorations. 

The more thrifty male plants of this species would serve well for background or screen planting. 

A good specimen with its fullness and regular outline would also be suitable for use as an axial terminus. Its slowness of growth reduces the maintenance required and adds to its durability.

44659 by H. H. Fisher