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Grape holly and holly are commonly grown as ornamental plants. Although they share a name, these two shrubs are more different than similar.
Grape holly is distinct from holly in its appearance and growth requirements. Holly is an invasive species, while grape holly is native. Furthermore, grape holly berries are edible, unlike holly berries which are poisonous to humans and pets. They also have different economic uses.
Of course, these are only a few ways that these plants differ. Grape hollies are not a holly variety, as they’re categorized in different taxonomical orders. Read on to learn more.
1. Grape Holly Berries are Edible, and Holly Berries Aren’t
Grape hollies produce purplish-blue berries that are safe for human and pet consumption. They also possess medicinal benefits and were traditionally used by Indian communities to treat conditions such as inflammation and indigestion.
On the contrary, holly berries are poisonous to people and pets. Although the level of toxicity is relatively low, common symptoms that you may experience from consuming holly berries include:
- Dehydration (source)
The toxin in holly berries that makes them unsafe for consumption is saponin. If children were to accidentally eat them, they would be more vulnerable to their effects than adults (source). Pets share a similar effect, so you’ll want to keep your kids and pets away from the plant when they’re outdoors.
2. Grape Holly and Holly Originated From Different Countries
Grape hollies are native to the North Eastern region of Mexico, while American hollies are native to the Central and Eastern parts of the United States (source). However, the classic holly originated in Europe and is similar to the American holly in many ways, except that it doesn’t tolerate cold and hot temperatures.
Today, different varieties of hollies grow all over the world.
3. Grape Holly and Holly Have Contrasting Light Requirements
Hollies thrive in full sunlight and require at least six hours of daily direct sunlight exposure for optimum growth. Therefore, they should receive at most six hours of partial shade, with the rest of the time spent in direct sunlight.
On the other hand, grape hollies prefer partial shade and should get at most four hours of direct sunlight per day. Overexposure to sunlight can result in leaf bleaching due to chlorophyll breakdown within the leaves (source).
4. Grape Holly and Holly Flower Quite Differently
While grape holly flowers bloom in winter, holly flowers bloom in summer and spring. Grape holly flowers have six petals that come in the following colors:
Holly flowers have four petals each that come in these colors:
In addition, grape holly flowers have a raceme inflorescence, meaning that the flowers are unbranched and attached to the central axis that elongates as new flowers grow.
In contrast, holly flowers have a cymose inflorescence, which means that the flowers grow laterally from the central axis, where the oldest flowers are at the center (source).
5. Hollies Can Grow Pretty High
Grape hollies average between 6’ to 8’ tall (1.8 to 2.4 m), while holly varieties such as Dahoon holly can grow as high as 40’ (12 m) (source).
Hollies can either take the form of trees or shrubs. Varieties such as Winterberry and English holly grow as shrubs, while others such as Nelly Stevens holly and American holly grow as trees. Dissimilarly, grape hollies primarily grow openly or in a pyramid as shrubs.
If you want to add a few shade trees in your yard and enjoy the appearance of a holly, you’ll want to go with the Dahoon holly tree (link to Amazon). However, if you want more shrubbery in your yard, grape holly shrubs might be a better choice.
6. Grape Holly and Holly Are From Different Taxonomical Orders
Grape holly and holly are categorized into different taxonomical orders under the Plantae Kingdom.
Grape hollies fall into the Ranunculales Order, or buttercup order, and the Berberidaceae family. Hollies, on the other hand, belong to the Aquifoliales Order and the Aquifoliaceae family.
This classification is essential because it combines organisms based on their similarities, enabling deeper study and research.
7. Holly Wood Makes Excellent Furniture Inlay
Holly wood is the whitest wood available and is used to decorate expensive furniture. Other uses of holly wood include:
- Brush handles
- Piano keys
- Turned objects
Holly wood is among the more expensive woods available (source). Although Grape holly has a woody stem, it cannot be used to make furniture or objects like holly wood.
8. The Foliage Varies Characteristically
Although both plants have green, ovate leaves, grape holly leaves turn purple before shedding in the fall. Contrarily, holly leaves turn brown or yellow in the fall.
Other contrasting features between grape holly leaves and holly leaves include:
- Leaf margins: Grape hollies have serrated or dented margins, while hollies have smooth or entire margins.
- Leaf orientation: Grape hollies have compound leaves, with each leaf having multiple leaflets. Hollies have simple, alternate leaves.
Grape holly foliage has a mix of gold and blue or green colors, which is dissimilar to holly foliage’s consistent blue or green color.
9. Hollies Are Invasive, While Grape Hollies Are Native
English holly, a holly variety, is a notoriously invasive species.
It spreads fast and easily adapts to new environments due to its minimal unique growing requirements. Unfortunately, invasive species threaten the ecology because they overgrow and take up resources meant for native plants (source).
Grape hollies are native species and only grow in their indigenous regions, where they are naturally adapted to.
10. Grape Holly and Holly Fruits Look Different
Grape holly fruits are grape-like black or purple berries. They are first seen in the summer and are harvested throughout the same season. Grape holly berries are edible and safe for humans and pets.
Holly berries are round and burgundy or orange in color and appear in the Fall, and unlike grape holly berries, they’re not safe for human or pet consumption (source).