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A deciduous shrub 6 to 10 ft high, of spreading habit; young shoots glabrous. Leaves oval, obovate, or lanceolate, tapered at both ends, 11⁄2 to 3 in. long 1⁄2 to 1 in. wide, shallowly and often doubly toothed, glabrous above, downy beneath, especially on the midrib and veins; stalk 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 in. long. Male flowers in clusters of six or more in the leaf-axils; female ones fewer. Calyx edged with small hairs. Fruits often solitary or in pairs, bright red (or, in f. chrysocarpa Robins., yellow), 1⁄4 in. wide, round.
Native of eastern N. America; introduced in 1736. This is the most ornamental of the American deciduous hollies, and is frequently very showy in autumn with the glossy scarlet berries, which are in full colour before the leaves fall. It received an Award of Merit when shown from Kew on 6 November 1962. The only species with which it is likely to be confused is I. laevigata (q.v.), a species which also has red berries and is deciduous. That species differs from I. verticillata by its glabrous or nearly glabrous leaves; its male flowers being borne on long and slender stalks; its calyx margins not being hairy; and by its solitary fruits. I. verticillata is somewhat variable, and American botanists distinguish the following varieties:
At least one British nurseryman offers male and female plants of this holly, which is one of the most ornamental of the genus in its fruits.