Ilex mitis is a beautiful fast growing evergreen tree which grows well in moist conditions but can also withstand dry conditions. It is believed to be an indicator species for areas with high water table. This tree is widely distributed in different parts of South Africa which include Limpopo, Northwest, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu Natal, Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.
It is a medium sized tree characterised with a straight trunk and a rounded canopy that grows to a mature height of 8m when growing conditions are conducive. Younger trees have a pale grey-brown bark and as the trees mature, the bark becomes whitish grey with darker and rough spots. The leaves of this tree are glossy, dark green and are borne on plum coloured stocks. Ilex mitis also produces masses of sweetly scented white flowers from October to February. The male and female flowers are produced on separate trees but only the female plants bear the shiny crimson red berries.
The Cape holly is an ideal tree for a formal garden as the dense bushy foliage can be clipped into any desired shape or size, it can also be grown as an avenue tree. The root system of this tree is non-invasive making it suitable for small gardens. Ilex mitis is one of the few indigenous trees that are frost tolerant. It also grows well both under full sun and semi-shade conditions.