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A low evergreen shrub of spreading, sometimes prostrate habit; young shoots not downy, angled. Leaves narrowly oval or oblong, tapered about equally to each end, blunt or rounded at the apex, shallowly round-toothed, 3⁄4 to 2 in. long, 3⁄8 to 3⁄4 in. wide, dark bright green and wrinkled above, paler and conspicuously veined beneath, not downy; stalk 1⁄8 in. long. Flowers shortly stalked; males six or eight, females one or two in the leaf axils. Fruits often solitary, roundish ovoid, about 1⁄4 in. wide, red, ripe in September.
Native of Japan and Sakhalin; originally described and named in 1868; introduced to cultivation in 1895, but very rare in this country. It is very distinct among cultivated hollies in its lax growth (making slender shoots up to 1 ft long in a season) and especially in the wrinkled surface of its leaves. It is very hardy in the Arnold Arboretum and ought to be quite hardy with us, but shrubs from its native regions are often excited into growth too early in spring and suffer from late frosts in consequence.
Hybrids between this species and I. aquifolium, raised by Mrs Meserve of Long Island, New York, have been given botanical status as I. × meserveae S. Y. Hu. They are also known as the ‘blue hollies’, from the glaucous bloom on their leaves. These hollies take from I. rugosa a comparatively low stature. Of the two clones that have been offered in commerce, ‘Blue Angel’ makes a bushy, compact shrub said to attain about 5 ft in time. It is female and interestingly sets fruit without any need for pollination, the ovaries starting to swell rapidly even before the petals have fallen. The other, ‘Blue Prince’, grows taller; it is male.