Ilex ambigua

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Ilex ambigua
Sand Holly (2942343195).gif
Conservation status

Secure (NatureServe)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Aquifoliales
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Genus: Ilex
Species: I. ambigua
Binomial name
Ilex ambigua
(Michx.) Torr.
Ilex ambigua range map 3.png
Natural range of Ilex ambigua

Ilex ambigua is a species of flowering plant in the holly family known by the common names Carolina holly and sand holly. It is native to the Southeastern United States, where its distribution extends along the coastal plain from North Carolina to Texas.[1]


Ilex ambigua is a large shrub or small tree up to 6 metres (20 ft) tall. The branches are covered in shiny dark brown or black bark which becomes flaky with age.[1] The twigs are purple.[2] Some branches have a thick coat of fine hairs. The leaves are up to 18 centimeters long by 7 wide.[1] The leaf margins are partially or entirely toothed or wavy.[2]

The species is dioecious, with male and female reproductive parts occurring on separate individuals. The fruit is a spherical red drupe. The seeds are dispersed by animals, which eat the fruits.[1]


This holly, Ilex ambigua, grows in many types of sandy habitat, such as sand scrub and hammocks and hardwood forests and woodlands. It may grow with pines such as loblolly, slash, and shortleaf pine, and oak species. It sometimes grows with its relative, American holly.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e Sullivan, Janet. 1994. Ilex ambigua. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory.
  2. ^ a b Ilex ambigua. The Nature Conservancy.

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