How to identify Ilex verticillata and Ilex laevigata

How to identify Ilex verticillata and Ilex laevigata

Field guides and websites make differentiation between Ilex verticillata and Ilex laevigata much more difficult than it really is.  Use this handy guide to determine which species you are trying to positively identify.

Ilex laevigata

Somewhat shiny and medium to light green leaves with blunt tips and blunt teeth on the leaves. Fruit calyx is completely hairless.  Twigs with copious buds and leaf scars.

For the botanist: Deciduous shrub to 9 feet tall’ leaves elliptic to oblanceolate or obovate, 1.5″-3″ long, acuminate, serrulate, sparsely villous on the veins beneath; flowers 6-8-merous; sepals entire; staminate flowers on 8-16mm pedicels; pistallate flowers on 3-8mm pedicels; fruits 8mm thick; nutlets smooth on the back; occasional in wooded swamps, wet thickets, and shores.

2014 Ilex laevigata- Leaf tip 2014 Ilex laevigata- Calyx lobes 2014 Ilex laevigata- Leaf tooth 2014 Ilex laevigata- twig-002

Ilex verticillata

Leaves dull and dark green with leaves tapering to a sharp point with long pointed and curved teeth.  Fruit calyx slightly to very hairy.  Twigs purplish with white spots.

For the botanist: Deciduous shrub to 15 feet tall with bright red to orange fruits remaining on branches through December; leaves variable, 1.5″-3″ long, obovate to elleptic or lance-oblong, acuminate, serrate; staminate flowers 4-6-merous; pistallate flowers 5-8-merous; sepals ciliate; fruit 7mm thick, on pedicels to 3mm; nutlets smooth on the back; common in swamps, bogs, wet woods, and moist shores.

2014 Ilex verticillata - Leaf tip 2014 Ilex verticillata - Calyx lobes 2014 Ilex verticillata - Leaf tooth 2014 Ilex verticillata - twig-002


A resource to evaluate nutlet differences.

Ilex seed identification