The variability of seedlings is illustrated on a brief jaunt through the garden viewing handfuls of native American holly (Ilex opaca) seedlings. While several have been dug and moved to locations better suited to the long term, all are native to the forest that borders the garden. All are readily identifiable as American hollies, and similar in appearance, but no two are identical, with leaf shapes that vary.
One seedling (above) found years ago growing beneath two yellow tipped ‘Sekkan-sugi’ Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica ‘Sekkan-sugi’) has grown twenty feet or taller, but unfortunately it is partially obscured between the cedars and a wide spreading ‘Tardiva’ hydrangea. This is the only obvious female of the hollies (with berries), though others are younger with identities that are not yet clear since hollies do not berry while young.
There are many other hollies in the garden, and several seedlings (below) with glossy green leaves that are likely not to be American hollies. Some seedlings must be discarded, there is only so much space allotted to large growing evergreens, but I am curious to watch others grow. I note the nearest holly as the potential parent, but in an acre and a quarter garden a seed could be deposited anywhere by robins that consume berries in late winter.
There are a number of other hollies in the garden, both Japanese (Ilex crenata, below) and Chinese hollies (Ilex cornuta) and hydbrids that are less upright and lower growing. Is this too many? Of course it is, along with too many of many other trees, shrubs, and perennials.