Bald Head Island Conservancy

Field Guide: Create A Special Suet Treat Using American Holly Trees

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By Desiree Bridge, Turtle Central Assistant Manager


The American holly (Ilex Opaca) is native to eastern and south-central United States. Like the English holly, but with duller darker leaves, the American holly is easily recognized in the winter months with its’ vibrant red berries. For the plant to produce berries,  both a male and female plant must be present. A popular plant with early American gardeners, George Washington who loved his gardens, experimented  with growing native hollies from seed and transplanting the seedlings. The wood  was used for making rulers, piano keys, violin pegs, and furniture. Though boughs  of American holly can be beautiful for holiday decorations, the berries are  poisonous to people and pets. For wild animals though, American holly is a valuable source of winter food for deer, squirrels, and many different types of birds. If you have a holly in your yard add some of the berries to a suet paste as a special treat for your feathered friends.  

Suet Paste  

Buy lard, (It is easier to work with already rendered fat. Or render your own fat at  home such as bacon grease.) and peanut butter.  

Blend 1 cup of lard and 1 cup of peanut butter until smooth. Add 3 ½ cups of  ground fine cornmeal. Mix well. Add in your extra ingredients, such as holly berries, nuts, and seeds. Either smear the paste into terracotta plant saucers or smear onto tree limbs and other areas in your yard where birds feel safe to eat. 

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Bluebirds enjoying Suet paste smeared on the base of a tree / Charles Sorenson
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