Alchornea ilicifolia

Holly, Native; Native Holly; Dovewood

Family: Euphorbiaceae

A small tree, to 6 metres tall. Found naturally in or on the edges of the drier rainforests; as far south as Jamberoo, New South Wales, north along the coast and extending west into the Hunter Valley, to Atherton in Queensland.

Grows in monsoon forest and the drier types of rainforest.

Leaves holly-like in appearance, to 8 cm long and to 5 cm wide. Ovate or rhomboidal in shape with three or four teeth on the leaf margins. Leaf tip and teeth sharp and pointed. Leaves are stiff, hairless and pale on the underside; mid to dark green in colour with new growth appearing red / bronze-red which is an attractive feature.

Greenish flowers appear in short spikes in the leaf axils to 3 cm long, in November.

Separate male and female flowers appear on separate plants. Female flowers can be produced on their own.

The fruit is a dark brown capsule, about 6 mm in diameter, usually with three lobes with one seed in each cell.

In the garden

The author has been growing this plant for many years with no problems. Once established it is quite hardy even in dry periods — an attractive garden shrub that should be grown for its foliage and flowers.

The leaves are food for the larvae of the Common Albatross butterfly (Appias albina), a small butterfly of the family Pieridae.

Further reports advise a well-drained soil and shady conditions but it is a tough plant. Prune regularly for a compact shape. Can self-seed in the garden once established.


Difficult to regenerate from seed, though cuttings strike well. Recruitment of seedlings around established plants may work.

Other information

Likely has some regeneration capability after fire if it grows in drier rainforest. May recruit from seedbank.

Alchornea – named in honour of the English naturalist and antiquarian Stanesby Alchorne (1727-1800). He worked at the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal Mint.
ilicifolia – refers to the holly like leaves (genus Ilex)


By Jeff Howes