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American Holly Ilex opaca
Use holly once and you will never forget it. Though it can be inconsistent in color, the most memorable lumber is pure white, with hardly any discernible grain pattern. However, this is hard to find. American holly has a fine, even texture and turns beautifully. For such a hard, tough wood, it is almost velvety to the touch, and sometimes it can have a green hue. Holly is not easy to use as there is often interlocking grain (which the turner will not notice) and it can dull tools. The lumber is not very stable, it seasons poorly and dimensions are usually limited by the smallness of the tree. Though it is not durable, American holly is unlikely to be used for purposes where that would matter. Stained black it is often used as a substitute for ebony.

Type Hardwood
Related species l. aquifolium
Sources l. opaca is grown in the United States, but there are many species of holly around the world.
Color Creamy white
Texture Fine and uniform, with a satiny feel
Grain Wavy and interlocking
Hardness Hard and tough
Weight Heavy (50 lb./cu. ft.) (800 kg/cu. m)

Few American hollies are felled because there is such a high demand for berries and leaves, so the most likely sources are local tree surgeons, specialist turning and carving suppliers, and veneer dealers. There is not much American holly on the commercial market, and none that is certified, but the species is under no threat.

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Updated: 12/2017   copyright 2011 Rowecraft