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By an Act of the General Assembly of Delaware, signed by Governor Richard C. McMullen on May 1, 1939, the American holly (Ilex opaca), often referred to as the Christmas or evergreen holly, was adopted as the official State Tree of Delaware.
The American Holly, (Aquifoliaceae Ilex opaca aiton,) is regarded as one of Delaware's most important forest trees. Often called Christmas holly or evergreen holly is native to the eastern United States, from coastal Massachusetts south to central Florida, and west to southeastern Missouri and eastern Texas. The tree has dark, green thorny-leaved and leathery foliage. Sometimes they are very shiny. Underneath, they are yellowish-green. The flowers of American Holly are small and white. They usually bloom from April to June. The fruit is a small red drupe 6-12 mm diameter containing four seeds; it is often persistent into winter.
When the Pilgrims landed the week before Christmas in 1620 on the coast of what is now Massachusetts, the evergreen, prickly leaves and red berries of American holly (Ilex opaca) reminded them of the English holly (Ilex aquifolium), a symbol of Christmas for centuries in England and Europe (13,26). Since then American holly, also called white holly or Christmas holly, has been one of the most valuable and popular trees in the Eastern United States for its foliage and berries, used for Christmas decorations, and for ornamental plantings.
The law designating the American holly as the official Delaware state tree is found in the Delaware Code, Title 29, Part 1, Chapter 3, Section 305.
TITLE 29. State Government.
PART I. General Provisions.
CHAPTER 3. STATE SEAL, SONG AND SYMBOLS.
§ 305. State tree. The American holly ( Ilex opaca, Aiton ) is adopted as the state tree. (42 Del. Laws, c. 86; 29 Del. C. 1953, § 505.)
Taxonomic Hierarchy: American Holly
Kingdom: Plantae - Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta - Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta - Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta - Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida - Dicotyledons
Family: Aquifoliaceae - Holly family
Genus: Ilex L. - holly
Species: Ilex opaca Aiton - American holly