It is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to a height of 3–5 m (rarely 10 m) tall, with a trunk diameter up to 20 cm. The leaves are glossy dark green, small, 10–30 mm long and 10–17 mm broad, with a crenate margin, sometimes spiny. The flowers are dioecious, white, four-lobed. The fruit is a black drupe 5 mm diameter, containing four seeds. It grows well in acidic soil, between a pH of 3.7 and 6.0.
I. crenata is grown as an ornamental plant for its dense evergreen foliage, and is a popular plant among Bonsai enthusiasts. It is superficially similar in appearance to boxwood, and is often used in similar situations; it can readily be distinguished from boxwood by its alternate, not opposite, leaf arrangement.
Numerous cultivars have been selected, including plants with the leaves variegated (e.g. 'Golden Gem', 'Shiro-Fukurin'), dark green (e.g. 'Green Lustre'), or greyish-green (e.g. 'Bad Zwischenahn'); with yellow fruit (e.g. 'Ivory Hall'); and with the habit erect (e.g. 'Chesapeake'), spreading (e.g. 'Green Island', 'Hetzii'), or dwarf (e.g. 'Mariesii', 'Stokes'). The variety 'Golden Gem' has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
- Germplasm Resources Information Network: Ilex crenata
- Osaka hundred trees: Ilex crenata (in Japanese; google translation)
- Okayama Science University: Ilex crenata (in Japanese; google translation)
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
- "Japanese Holly Bonsai". BonsaiDojo.net.
- "RHS Plant Selector". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 2013-05-20.
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