The hollies (Ilex
L., Aquifoliaceae) form a large (>669 spp.) genus of forest trees and shrubs, which is almost cosmopolitan in mesic environments but most diverse in subtropical China and montane South America. Throughout the range of the genus, Ilex
species have been utilized as beverages, medicines, ornamentals, honey plants, timber, and for various other minor uses. Recent studies on the genomics, evolution, and biogeography of Ilex
now make it possible to take a systematic approach to understanding and expanding the economic importance of the genus, but information on existing uses is scattered among numerous published and unpublished sources. We therefore review the existing literature on utilization of Ilex
species, supplementing this with information from the grey literature and product websites. We show that, despite the number and diversity of known uses, most Ilex
species are not known to be utilized at present, suggesting considerable unrealized potential. We highlight gaps in our knowledge and opportunities for expanded usage. Finally, we discuss how the availability of a new phylogeny and whole genome can assist screening of additional wild species for economic potential and facilitate breeding programs for species already under cultivation.
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