Index of Species Information

SPECIES:  Ilex ambigua


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION : 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 (Producer). Available: [].

ABBREVIATION : ILEAMB SYNONYMS : Ilex caroliniana (Walt.) Trel. [12] SCS PLANT CODE : ILAM COMMON NAMES : Carolina holly sand holly TAXONOMY : The currently accepted scientific name for Carolina holly is Ilex ambigua (Michx.) Torr. [15]. Some authorities [7,17] recognize I. a. var. monticola and I. a. var. montana as infrataxa, but these entities appear to be more properly placed as synonyms of I. montana Torr. & Gray (mountain winterberry) [12,15,24]. LIFE FORM : Tree, Shrub FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS : No special status OTHER STATUS : Caroline holly is listed as threatened by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services [27].


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
GENERAL DISTRIBUTION : The native range of Carolina holly is the Coastal Plain from North Carolina, northern Georgia, northern Alabama, central Arkansas, and southeastern Oklahoma south to central Florida, the Gulf Coast, and eastern Texas [3,15]. ECOSYSTEMS : FRES12 Longleaf - slash pine FRES13 Loblolly - shortleaf pine FRES14 Oak - pine FRES15 Oak - hickory STATES : AL AR FL GA LA MS NC OK SC TX BLM PHYSIOGRAPHIC REGIONS : NO-ENTRY KUCHLER PLANT ASSOCIATIONS : K089 Black Belt K104 Appalachian oak forest K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest K112 Southern mixed forest K115 Sand pine scrub SAF COVER TYPES : 34 Red spruce - Fraser fir 69 Sand pine 70 Longleaf pine 71 Longleaf pine - scrub oak 82 Loblolly pine - hardwood SRM (RANGELAND) COVER TYPES : NO-ENTRY HABITAT TYPES AND PLANT COMMUNITIES : Carolina holly occurs in a variety of habitats: mesic or submesic mixed hardwoods, pine-scrub oak sand ridges and flats, sandy hardwood hammocks, and sandy old fields [7]. Species with which Carolina holly occurs in xeric hardwood hammocks include American holly (Ilex opaca), inkberry (I. glabra), laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia), live oak (Q. virginiana), and spruce pine (P. glabra) [4,6,14,16,23].


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
IMPORTANCE TO LIVESTOCK AND WILDLIFE : The fruits of Carolina holly are eaten by a number of species of birds. They are also consumed by squirrels, other small mammals, and white-tailed deer [11,22]. PALATABILITY : NO-ENTRY NUTRITIONAL VALUE : NO-ENTRY COVER VALUE : NO-ENTRY VALUE FOR REHABILITATION OF DISTURBED SITES : NO-ENTRY OTHER USES AND VALUES : NO-ENTRY OTHER MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS :


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
GENERAL BOTANICAL CHARACTERISTICS : Carolina holly is a native, deciduous or nearly evergreen, large shrub or small tree to 18 feet (6 m) tall [7,11]. The branches are distributed irregularly, forming a rounded crown. The branches range from glabrous to densely pubescent. The bark is dark brown to black, lustrous, smooth, and flaking on old stems [24]. The leaves are 1.6 to 7.1 inches (4-18 cm) long and 0.59 to 2.7 inches (1.5-7 cm) wide. The fruit is a red, translucent, globose drupe 0.2 to 0.36 inch (5-9 mm) in diameter [17]. The sessile fruits are distributed along the length of the branches [11]. RAUNKIAER LIFE FORM : Phanerophyte REGENERATION PROCESSES : Carolina holly reproduces by animal-dispersed seed. It is dioecious [7]. No specific information is available concerning Carolina holly seed germination requirements. The seeds of other holly (Ilex spp.) species exhibit a deep dormancy caused partly by a hard endocarp covering the seedcoat, and partly by conditions in the embryo. This deep dormancy results in extremely slow germination for most hollies; 70 to 95 percent germination was reported for inkberry (I. glabra) when the germination test was allowed to continue for over 300 days. Complete germination often does not occur until the second or even third spring after sowing [2]. No information on vegetative reproduction of Carolina holly is currently available. American holly sprouts from the root crown following top-kill [9]. Propagation of hollies by cuttings is very common [2]. SITE CHARACTERISTICS : Carolina holly is occasional in sandy upland woods [3,17]. It occurs on a wide variety of well-drained sites [7]. Carolina holly occurred in a sand pine scrub community that had 0 to 1 inch (2.54 cm) of litter and humus over sand. It is described as a typical member of xeric hammocks and scrub communities [14]. A related evergreen species, American holly, is intolerant of flooding [9]. SUCCESSIONAL STATUS : Facultative Seral Species Carolina holly is a member of some sand pine scrub communities that are early successional and maintained by fire [7,8,14,16]. It also occurs in the mixed hardwood communities ("hammocks") that replace sand pine scrub when fire is suppressed. In one study [8], it was reported in the early stage of a xeric hammock community, but was not present 20 years later and may therefore not be late-successional in these communities. Carolina holly was reported as occurring in old-growth red spruce (Picea rubens)-Fraser fir (Abies fraseri) communities in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia [1]. It is possible, however, that the reported species was actually mountain winterberry (I. montana) rather than Carolina holly, since this is outside the range of Carolina holly. SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT : Carolina holly flowers from March to June. Ripe fruits are available to wildlife from late summer to December [3,11]. Simpson [19], however, reports that the fruit falls quickly after ripening.


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
FIRE ECOLOGY OR ADAPTATIONS : Carolina holly occurs in Florida sand pine scrub communities which usually experience fire at least once during the lifetime of the sand pine trees [16]. These communities are maintained by fires that recur once every 10 to 100 years; fire suppression allows succession to hammock (hardwood) communities in which Carolina holly is present in early stages [23]. Carolina holly was reported in the understory of longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) communities in the Alabama piedmont, but the fire history of those particular stands was not detailed. Longleaf pine under natural conditions experienced frequent low-intensity surface fires [26]; however, the stands containing Carolina holly may not have burned recently since shrub cover was reported as 27 percent (SD 19 %) [8]. Currently, prescribed fires are used to maintain longleaf pine in an open condition [25]. POSTFIRE REGENERATION STRATEGY : Secondary colonizer - off-site seed


SPECIES: Ilex ambigua
IMMEDIATE FIRE EFFECT ON PLANT : Carolina holly is probably easily killed by fire. American holly, a related and cooccurring evergreen holly, is extremely susceptible to fire. American holly has thin bark that is easily injured by fire, and large trees are sometimes killed by light fires in the understory [9,10]. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT : NO-ENTRY PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE : Specific information on the response of Carolina holly to fire is lacking in the literature. Young American holly will sprout when top-killed, although frequent prescribed fires reduce fruit production and may eliminate American holly completely from the understory of pine (Pinus spp.) communities [9]. Carolina holly may respond in a similar manner. DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE : NO-ENTRY FIRE MANAGEMENT CONSIDERATIONS : Carolina holly may be eliminated from the understory of pine communities that are subjected to frequent fires. The related evergreen species American holly is eliminated by repeated prescribed fires [9]. Carolina holly may be encouraged by occasional fires, either because it may sprout after top-kill (suggested by its presence as a shrub in the understory of longleaf pine communities) or because it can colonize open areas via bird-dispersed seeds.

References for species: Ilex ambigua

1. Adams, Harold S.; Stephenson, Steven L. 1989. Old-growth red spruce communities in the mid-Appalachians. Vegetatio. 85: 45-56. [11409]
2. Bonner, F. T. 1974. Ilex L. holly. In: Schopmeyer, C. S., ed. Seeds of woody plants in the United States. Agric. Handb. 450. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 450-453. [7683]
3. Duncan, Wilbur H.; Duncan, Marion B. 1988. Trees of the southeastern United States. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 322 p. [12764]
4. Eyre, F. H., ed. 1980. Forest cover types of the United States and Canada. Washington, DC: Society of American Foresters. 148 p. [905]
5. Garrison, George A.; Bjugstad, Ardell J.; Duncan, Don A.; [and others]. 1977. Vegetation and environmental features of forest and range ecosystems. Agric. Handb. 475. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 68 p. [998]
6. Gibson, David J. 1992. Vegetation-environment relationships in a southern mixed hardwood forest. Castanea. 57(3): 174-189. [19717]
7. Godfrey, Robert K. 1988. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of northern Florida and adjacent Georgia and Alabama. Athens, GA: The University of Georgia Press. 734 p. [10239]
8. Golden, Michael S. 1979. Forest vegetation of the lower Alabama Piedmont. Ecology. 60(4): 770-782. [9643]
9. Grelen, H. E. 1990. Ilex opaca Ait. American holly. In: Burns, Russell M.; Honkala, Barbara H., technical coordinators. Silvics of North America. Vol. 2. Hardwoods. Agric. Handb. 654. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service: 379-385. [9131]
10. Hare, Robert C. 1965. Contribution of bark to fire resistance of southern trees. Journal of Forestry. 63(4): 248-251. [9915]
11. Hunter, Carl G. 1989. Trees, shrubs, and vines of Arkansas. Little Rock, AR: The Ozark Society Foundation. 207 p. [21266]
12. Kartesz, John T.; Kartesz, Rosemarie. 1980. A synonymized checklist of the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. Volume II: The biota of North America. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press; in confederation with Anne H. Lindsey and C. Richie Bell, North Carolina Botanical Garden. 500 p. [6954]
13. Kuchler, A. W. 1964. Manual to accompany the map of potential vegetation of the conterminous United States. Special Publication No. 36. New York: American Geographical Society. 77 p. [1384]
14. Laessle, Albert M. 1958. The origin and successional relationship of sandhill vegetation and sand-pine scrub. Ecological Monographs. 28(4): 361-387. [9780]
15. Little, Elbert L., Jr. 1979. Checklist of United States trees (native and naturalized). Agric. Handb. 541. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service. 375 p. [2952]
16. Mulvania, M. 1931. Ecological survey of a Florida scrub. Ecology. 12(3): 528-540. [9992]
17. Radford, Albert E.; Ahles, Harry E.; Bell, C. Ritchie. 1968. Manual of the vascular flora of the Carolinas. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press. 1183 p. [7606]
18. Raunkiaer, C. 1934. The life forms of plants and statistical plant geography. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 632 p. [2843]
19. Simpson, Benny J. 1988. A field guide to Texas trees. Austin, TX: Texas Monthly Press. 372 p. [11708]
20. Stickney, Peter F. 1989. Seral origin of species originating in northern Rocky Mountain forests. Unpublished draft on file at: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory, Missoula, MT; RWU 4403 files. 10 p. [20090]
21. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service. 1982. National list of scientific plant names. Vol. 1. List of plant names. SCS-TP-159. Washington, DC. 416 p. [11573]
22. Van Dersal, William R. 1938. Native woody plants of the United States, their erosion-control and wildlife values. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture. 362 p. [4240]
23. Veno, Patricia Ann. 1976. Successional relationships of five Florida plant communities. Ecology. 57: 498-508. [9659]
24. Vines, Robert A. 1960. Trees, shrubs, and woody vines of the Southwest. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. 1104 p. [7707]
25. Wright, Henry A.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1982. Fire ecology: United States and southern Canada. New York: John Wiley & Sons. 501 p. [2620]
26. Myers, Ronald L. 1990. Scrub and high pine. In: Myers, Ronald L.; Ewel, John J., eds. Ecosystems of Florida. Orlando, FL: University of Central Florida Press: 150-193. [17389]
27. Wood, Don A., compiler. 1994. Official lists of endangered & potentially endangered fauna and flora in Florida. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission. 22 p. [24196]