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 (dioecious)

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

This species is named Alchornea aquifolia by other botanists (see resources below). 

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

Alchornea is a genus of about 70 species, distributed through tropical regions of the world. Australia has 3 species, occurring in Queensland and NSW; one of which (this species) occurs in NSW. 

Alchornea – named in honour of Stanesby Alchorne (1727-1800); an English naturalist and antiquarian. He worked at the Chelsea Physic Garden and the Royal Mint.

ilicifolia – refers to the holly-like leaves of the genus Ilex.

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild. 

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Alchornea ilicifolia profile page

Some Magentic Island Plants – Alchornea aquifolia profile page https://www.somemagneticislandplants.com.au/plants/native-holly

Wikipedia – Alchornea ilicifolia profile page                             https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchornea_ilicifolia

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.