No. 53. Ilex opaca.

Continuation of the one hundred selected articles.
I to X.

No. 53. Ilex opaca. English Name, American Holly. French Name, Houx. Classification, Nat. Order of Rhamnides. Tetrandia tetragynia of Linnaeus.

Genus ILEX. Calix minute, 4 or 5 toothed, corolla rotate 4 or 5 parted. One ovary, 4 sestile stigmas, 4 or 5 stamina, opposed to the corolla. Berry one celled, four seeded. Shrubs or trees, leaves alternate.

Sp. Ilex opaca. Leaves oval lanceolate, acute at both ends, evergreen, shining, spinose-dentate; fascicles of flowers loose on the young branches, peduncles compound.

Description. A tree from 10 to 40 feet high, small in the North, larger in the South: with handsome evergreen leaves, forming a compact foliage with spinose teeth, on short petioles, oval or oval-lanceolate, both ends sharp, texture firm. The flowers are small yellowish white, in small fascides on the small branches. The berries are scarlet, round and handsome.

History. The Genus Ilex of Linnaeus contains many heterogeneous species, some are polygamous or dioical, have 1, 2 or 4 stigmas, a cell or 4 cells in the berry, a corolla or none, &c. It requires to be remodelled. As early as 1817 I separated the Ilex Canadensis, calling it Nemopanthus, which has dioical flowers, calix 5 leaved, 5 stamina, alternate, no corolla, one stigma capitate, 4 lobed, berry 4 celled 4 seeded, &c. The Ilex obcordata has a single entire stigma. The Genera Paltoria and Macucua united to it, are also distinct. The Ilex Cassine or Vomitoria must form a particuliar genus, if it has the corolla 4 lobed, the stamina alternate to it, and a 4 celled berry, as Elliot says: I propose to call it Hierophyllus cassine.

Our Ilex opaca was formerly bonded with the I. aquifolium of Europe, Aiton separated it, although hardly different. It is however a larger tree in the Southern States, with leaves less undulate, with fewer and smaller teeth, and the berries not on the old branches. I have however seen varieties connecting both, and Persoon says that the I. aquifolium grows also in Virginia. The I. opaca is found from Long Island to Florida, chiefly on the Alluvial Region. The berries remain on the tree throughout the winter, and form a fine contrast with the deep green leaves. It blossoms in May. It is introduced in gardens as ornamental, and forms fine hedges. The bark of the branches is very viscid, and produces the best bird lime by boiling: it contains gum, wax, a yellow resin, many salts, &c.

The figure 53 represents the variety 1. Macrodon, with remote large teeth, very near to I. aquifolium, if not the same. Other varieties noticed by me were 2. Latifolia with broad ovate leaves with rounded base, and small teeth. 3. Acuminata, with narrow and very sharp leaves &c. 4. Globosa, small, with a globose foliage, &c.

Properties. Those of I. aquifolium and I. opaca appear to be the same. The root, bark, leaves, and berries are used. They are mucilaginous and a little bitter, particularly the berries, which are reckoned resolvent, pectoral, demulcent, and laxative. The decoction and wine has been used for coughs, pleurisy, colics, constipation, fever, gout, rheumatism, &c. and externally as a cataplasm in tumours. Their juice also in jaundice. The leaves have the same but weaker effects. The bark gives a fine bitter mucilage, useful in fever, diabetes, and an external application in gout. Kalm says the leaves boiled in small beer cure pleurisy.

The Nemopanthus farcicularis or Ilex canadensis, found in the Alleghany Mountains and Canada, has perhaps some of the same properties, since the bark is also employed for bird lime, and the wood by turners, &c.

Among the Southern species, two, spread from North Carolina to Louisiana near the sea shore, are chiefly used 1. Ilex Cassine of Michaux (my Hierophyllus) wrongly called I. vomitoria by Lin. who gave the name of I. cassena to the 2d species, or I. dahoon of Michaux, Walter, Elliot, &c. Both are evergreen shrubs, called Cassena, Yapoon, and Dahoon by the Indians. The true Cassena is reckoned a holy plant by many southern tribes, being used in their religious rites and solemn councils to clear the stomach and the head by emesis and diuresis. Women are forbid to use it. It is collected with care, and forms an article of trade among tribes. They often torrify slightly the leaves before using them. They are inodorous, taste subaromatic and fervid, useful in foul stomach, fevers, diabetes, smallpox, &c. as a mild emetic; but the Indians' Black Drink is a strong decoction of it, and a violent, although harmless vomitive. In North Carolina, the inhabitants of the sea side swamps, having no good water to drink, purify it by boiling it with a little Cassena (perhaps Viburnum Cassinoides,) and use it constantly warm, as the Chinese do their daily tea drink.

The Dahoon is used as a substitute to the Cassena, and many other shrubs appear to be used indiscriminately for making the Black Drink, the Cassine ramulosa of the Flora of Louisiana for instance; which is a true Cassine of Lin. (It's Ilex cassine, these days. -Henriette) Genus distinguished from Ilex by five petals, three styles, and a three seeded berry. They are all powerful diuretics.

Medical Flora, or Manual of the Medical Botany of the United States of North America, Vol. 2, 1830, was written by C. S. Rafinesque.