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Ilex fargesii (Farges’s holly)

Farges's holly, named after the French missionary Paul Farges, is a Chinese holly with glossy dark green leaves and fragrant white flowers, followed by red berries.
Ilex fargesii leaves and berries

Ilex fargesii (Photo: Martyn Rix)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Ilex fargesii Franch.

Common name: 

Farges’s holly

Conservation status: 

Not known to be threatened.


In thickets, woodlands and forests on mountain slopes.

Key Uses: 


Known hazards: 

None known.


Genus: Ilex

About this species

Ilex fargesii was named after the French missionary Paul Farges, who collected the plant in eastern Sichuan (China) at the end of the 19th century. Farges’s holly was introduced into cultivation in Britain by Ernest Wilson who sent seeds back from west Hubei to Messrs Veitch and Son (of the Exeter and Chelsea Nurseries) in 1900. This holly eventually forms a small, evergreen tree, with distinctive, narrow leaves.


Ilex franchetiana


Discover more

Geography and distribution

Ilex fargesii in Sichuan (Photo: Martyn Rix)

Native to western and central China, where it is found in Sichuan, south Gansu, west Hubei, Hunan and south Shaanxi provinces, at 1,500–3,000 m above sea level.


Overview: An evergreen shrub or small tree up to 8 m high, with stout young branches.

Leaves: The leathery leaves are spineless, narrow, up to 12 cm long, dark green on the upper side and lighter green below, with a few incurved teeth at the apex of the leaf.

Flowers/fruits: The white flowers appear in May. The male flowers are reported to be fragrant and the female flowers are followed in the autumn by small, round, red fruits, carried in groups in the leaf axils.

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Hand-coloured lithograph of Ilex fargesii by Lilian Snelling, after a watercolour by L. Snelling and Stella Ross-Craig, taken from Curtis's Botanical Magazine.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants.

Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis’s Botanical Magazine


Farges’s holly is cultivated as an ornamental. It is one of more than 1,000 plant species collected in China at the beginning of the 20th century by Ernest ‘Chinese’ Wilson (1876-1930).

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

Kew's Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life world wide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in our seed bank vault.

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: One

This species at Kew

Ilex fargesii can be seen growing along Holly Walk and in the Woodland Garden near the Temple of Aeolus at Kew, and in Westwood Valley at Wakehurst. Some specimens have been grown from seed collected by Kew staff (including Tony Kirkham) during expeditions to Sichuan (in 1996 and 2001).

Pressed and dried specimens of Ilex fargesii are held in Kew’s Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these, including images, can be seen online in Kew’s Herbarium Catalogue.

View details and images of specimens

References and credits

Andrews, S. (1986). The Ilex fargesii complex. Kew Mag. (Curtis’s Bot. Mag.) 3: 127-135.

The Plant List (2010). Ilex fargesii. Available online (accessed 17 March 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Steve Davis (Sustainable Uses Group)
Copyediting: Emma Tredwell

While every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, the notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

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