Here’s a tree you won’t see much.
It is an ilex vomitoria. The wild one. The Original.
It is also a male.
“Wait a minute. ” you ask,
” Plants can be male or female?”
Yes they can. The holly (ilex) family is dioecious. Meaning there are male and female plants.
To simplify it drastically.The male ilex plant will have flowers but no fruit. The female will have flowers and will have fruit. A traditional red holly berry.
There are some plants that have both male and female flowers on the same plant. And some plants have flowers that have male and female parts within the same flower.
That’s a very basic explanation. I suggest further reading. Plant sexuality, Wikipedia.
This is before. I’ve let it grow for a full year.
The male of the species is smaller than the female. It won’t get more than 10-12 ft tall. The female, on the other hand, is a small tree and can get about 20-25 ft tall.
The shrub we use in Florida and in the south is ilex vomitoria “schilling”, a dwarf variety . It can get about 6 ft tall. It, by the way, is only male and is only reproduced by cuttings. So, technically, all schillings are clones.
There is a female dwarf called “nana”
I know this one is a nana because it says so on the pot…..
Well, the growth habit is different too.
On the schilling it’s more haphazard and all over. On the nana it’s more upright and straight.
Plus we have the berries. don’t forget them.
They will turn bright red as winter comes.
The leaves are bigger and more like an ilex cornuta (Japanese holly) more rounded, and the new growth is all green.
I had trimmed and fertilized both of these plants at the same time and you can see the growth. I would guess the leaf count is the same but its the internode length that is the difference.
I don’t own a potted female vomitoria but here is a pic from The Magic Kingdom of an old one. The leaf size is about double that of the male.
This one might be 30 years old. It’s been trimmed a lot. It’s about 15 ft tall.
There are some on Tom Sawyers Island that are about 25 ft tall.
For kicks, this is ilex vomitoria “pendula” a weeping form. There are both male and female forms of this.
Back to the vomitoria.
It has a decent trunk and an interesting nebari. Not spectacular but serviceable. This is typical of what I’ve seen (at native plant nurseries, which is probably the only place you’ll find one) of the trunk characteristics of the male vomitoria; The odd, almost, knee-like roots and the branch angles at a 45 degree angle upward.
A quick topiary cut.
This pic disproves the naysayers who poo poo on the vomitoria. They say that it will never get dense enough. I always say that one should never underestimate how dense the male of the species can get. (this post was actually so I could use that one line. You’ll get the joke sooner if you’re a female).
Side view. I’ve wired it a bit. The vomitoria is even more brittle than the schillings and it is very easy to snap a branch. So it is more of a “clip n grow” tree. Click here to see how I trim an ilex.