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Products > Olmediella betschleriana
Olmediella betschleriana - Guatemalan Holly
Image of Olmediella betschleriana
[2nd Image]
Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Tree
Family: Flacourtiaceae (now Salicaceae)
Origin: Guatemala (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Green
Bloomtime: Fall
Synonyms: [Ilex betschleriana]
Height: 25-40 feet
Width: 15-20 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Seaside: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Medium Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 25-30° F
Olmediella betschleriana (Guatemalan Holly) - An evergreen tree 25 to 40 feet tall with a generally erect habit and low canopy that holds 4 to 6 inch long by 2 1/2 inch wide oval leathery dark green leaves that have spine-tipped teeth along the margins and are pinkish copper-colored in new growth. It is a dioecious tree with male and female flowers on different plants in late fall but both flowers are inconspicuous, though female flowering trees may produce fairly large (2-3 inch wide) woody globose fruit that is yellow green then black and held tight to the branch stems. Plant in full to part sun or light shade and irrigate occasionally - pretty drought tolerant once established but seems to look best were it gets some irrigation. Is hardy to around at least the mid 20s°F - Peter Riedel noted this tree damaged in a "recent" frost when writing about it growing in Santa Barbara in the early 1950's, which likely referred to the historic low temperature of 20°F recorded on January 4, 1949. Good near coast with some protection from direct seaside influences. This is a good looking dense tree in our climate and can be trimmed and used as a hedge or large screen or espaliered on a large wall. Originally described in 1855 as Ilex betschleriana to honor a Dr. Betschler by the German botanist Johann Heinrich Robert Göppert, it was transferred to the Flacourtiaceae (with Azara, Xylosma, and Dovyalis) in 1906 by Ludwig Eduard Theodor Loesener. The name for the genus is the diminutive ("ella") of Olmedia, a genus in the Moraceae that was named to honor the 18th century Spanish botanist Vincent de Olmedo. Another interesting thing about this plant is that it had been cultivated since the 1850's without knowing where it originated and was not until 1932 when it was found and documented in the wild in the mountains of Guatemala (and later in Mexico and Honduras) from 4,500 to 9,000 feet. Of further interest is the fact that all related genera, once in the now defunct Flacourtiaceae family, were only found in the old world but recent taxonomic treatment has transferred these plants into the more cosmopolitan willow family (Salicaceae). Other common names include Guatemalan Holly, Costa Rican Holly, Manzanote (a Guatemalan name referring to the look of the inedible fruit). Though not common, specimens of this tree can be found along the California coast from San Francisco south to San Diego, including trees in the Strybing Arboretum, on the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo campus, the Fullerton Arboretum. Palomar College and street trees in West Los Angeles (11800 block of West Stanwood). It was a favorite of legendary Disney landscape designer Morgan Bill Evans and specimens can still be found growing in Fantasyland at Disneyland. In Santa Barbra we first saw this plant at the home of the late Lockwood and Elizabeth de Forrest where it was espaliered on the wall of a garage and is also so espaliered along a wall of the Santa Barbara Municipal Courthouse on Victoria Street. There is a hedge on Junipero Street across from Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and a street tree in the 200 block of San Roque Rd. We previously grew this tree from 1982-89 and felt it was time to grow it again. 

This information about Olmediella betschleriana displayed is based on research conducted in our horticultural library and from reliable online resources. We also will relate observations made about it as it grows in our nursery gardens and other gardens we have visited, as well how the crops have performed in containers in our nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others and we welcome hearing from anyone with additional information, particularly if they can share any cultural information that would aid others in growing it.