Cape Holly

Ilex mitis

African Holly, Wild Holly, Water tree, Waterboom, Waterhout, Without (Afr.), Mutanzwa-Khamelo (Venda), Monamane (Northern Sotho), Iphuphuma (Zulu), umDuma (Xhosa), liBota (Swazi), Phukgu, Phukgile (Southern Sotho), Mutanzwa-khamelo (Venda)

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A close up of a green plant
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Ilex mitis is a fairly fast-growing tree species, capable of growing 0.8 m a year, making it a good species for use as hedging. It transplants well, but needs protection whilst young. Originating from Southern Africa, this species grows best in dry environments when planted alongside a running stream. It is one of the few indigenous evergreen trees that can cope with frost, making it especially suitable for cold areas. To be sure of fruit, plant a small grove of these trees and remove extra males later. ZA Distribution: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, North West, Northern Cape, Western Cape.




Flowering time

Summer, Autumn, Spring

Fruiting time

Summer, Autumn, Spring


Generally not harvested



Fresh seed grows easily. Seed collected from the tree or those fallen below the tree should be allowed to dry. Trees can be very tall, making collecting off the tree very difficult. They should then be sown into a tray containing a 1:1 mixture of river sand and compost. Seedling mix obtained from nursery centres is also suitable. Seed should be covered lightly with the soil mix and then kept damp. Although germination can be erratic, seeds usually begin to germinate 8-20 days after sowing. The seedlings need to be transplanted into a mix of sand and compost in bags at the two-leaf stage.

Special features

Attracts birds

Many bird species feed on the berries.

Attracts useful insects

Attracts bees

Hedge plant

Because of their fast growth they make good hedging and screening plants.

Wet sites

Occurs naturally along river and streams or in moist areas of Afro-montane forest.

Attracts butterflies

Attractive flowers

Wind break

Attracts bees

Special features


Africa, Southern Africa, from Cape Town in the South, all the way up past Zimbabwe and Malawi in the north.

Natural climate

Along natural streams in the Fynbos biome.



Full Sun, Partial Shade, Partial Sun

Soil moisture


Soil type

Loam, Sand

Soil PH preference

Neutral, Acid

Frost hardiness






Flower colour





Generally trouble free


profile iconIlex mitis
by Jane Forrester, Harold Porter NBG, July 2004 (Copyright South African National Biodiversity Institute, South Africa)