American Holly

Ilex opaca                                      


Woodward Hill Cemetery, 508 S. Queen Street, Lancaster PA (behind the burial site of President James Buchanan)


Scott Wade


This tree is tied for third largest American Holly in Pennsylvania, with a circumference in 2008 of 84 inches and a height of 47 feet (  


A holly's circumference grows about 1.25 cm per year.  This tree's trunk was 213 cm in 2008 (i.e., 84 inches x 2.54). Thus its age in 2018 calculates to 180 years old (213/1.25 + 10).  Even if that estimate is high by 40 or 50 years, this tree compares impressively with the average longevity of the American Holly, which is thought to be about 100 years.


Woodward Hill Cemetery was established in 1852 as an open space for recreation as well as veneration of the dead, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  If the holly was planted during the cemetery's earliest years, it would be about 160-170 years old in 2019.


This amazing species bears berries that are poisonous to humans but provide late-winter survival food for robins and cedar waxwings whose migrating flocks strip the tree of fruit.