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Tree Medicines of the Garden Route: Cape Holly

Scientific name: Ilex mitis.
Family: Aquifoliaceae.
Common names: African holly, Cape holly, Wild holly, Water tree (Eng.); Waterboom, Waterhout, Without (Afr.); Monamane (Northern Sotho); iPhuphuma (Zulu), umDuma (Xhosa); liBota (Swazi); Phukgu, Phukgile (Southern Sotho); Mutanzwa-khamelo (Venda).

There is only one recorded species of holly tree in South Africa and it’s our beautiful African or Cape Holly which is found primarily in coastal forest & mountainous forest regions in SA and along rivers and streams.

Another common name given to the African Holly is the “water tree” – which is linked to the belief that the presence of this tree is an indication of underground water near the surface.

The Cape Holly seems to be a favourite source of food for our Knysna Forest Elephants who have been noted to feed off the leaves of this forest tree more so than the leaves of the other endemic forest trees.


a. Bear in mind when harvesting any indigenous tree to do so sustainably. Different trees and different parts of a tree have their own harvesting methods and periods throughout the year. The South African National Biodiversity Institute has informative harvesting tips on their website (SANBI link below).

b. As with any medication, when using plants for their medicinal values it is recommended that you seek professional guidance from a natural health practitioner and undertake appropriate research before use.

For additional information on germination, propagation, ecology, maintenance, etc. of indigenous SA trees, go to:

Click here if you would like to sponsor a African Holly and help grow a mini forest!

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