Species list


Ilex canariensis

Small-leaved holly

Small-leaved holly (Eng); acebiño, cárisco (Spa).


DID YOU KNOW...? The branches that receive the most humidity are sometimes home to a species of moss known locally as 'barbas de acebiño' (small-leaved holly beards) that can be a metre and a half long.


This is usually a medium-sized tree (5-10 m) that can sometimes be as much as 20 m tall. It has a very branching, dark crown, a trunk up to 50 cm in diameter, and smooth or scaly pale grey bark. It normally produces shoots at the base (suckers). The leaves are persistent, simple, alternate, leathery, hairless, 5-9 cm long and 2.5-4 cm wide, and a deep, shiny green that is somewhat paler on the underside. They have a short stalk (1 cm) and, in many cases, small spines at the edge when young, which is why it may be confused with its relative Ilex perado. Nevertheless, the adult leaves of the small-leaved holly are almost always entire and terminate in a more or less rounded tip, unlike those of Ilex perado, which finish in a point. Ilex canariensis has male and female blooms on different plants, making it a dioecious species. All the flowers have 5 white petals, lightly joined at the base, that grow singly or in small clusters near the leaf stalks. The fruits form at the end of spring and are fleshy (berries), around 1 cm in diameter, and deep red in colour when ripe, although they blacken with time. Each fruit contains 4-6 seeds.


The small-leaved holly is characteristic of the laurel forests and the adjacent scrub, and it requires a certain degree of environmental humidity. It is also frequent in the Morella-Erica heath and the lowest zone of some mixed pine groves. It grows preferentially between altitudes of 500 and 1200 m.


This holly is endemic to the Canary Islands and Madeira. In the Canary Islands it can be found on El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, Tenerife and Gran Canaria.