These plants have no relation whatsoever
with the Christmas Holly, although they appear similar.
In fact, not all the leaves have the spiny edges that give them
their common name. Leaves growing the deep shade can be totally
Unlike some mangrove plants, Sea Holly do not exclude salt at the
root level. In fact, their sap is salty and excess salt is secreted
through the leaves, to be removed by rain or wind. Sometimes, the
salt can be seen as a white crystalline layer on the upper surface.
The plant produces a cluster of flowers that develop into pods. When
the pods ripen, they explode to propel the seeds up to 2m away.
Sea Holly grows on mud near the hide tide mark, often on mud lobster
mounds. It can grow equally well under trees and in open areas. But
it grows especially well in areas with more freshwater input. The
plant can sometimes cover large areas and form thickets,
particularly in disturbed mangrove. They also grow along river
Uses: In Indonesia, the entire plant is placed in rice sacks to keep
the rice dry (i.e., acts as a desiccant).
Traditional medicinal uses: The leaves of A. ilicifolius are used to
treat rheumatism, neuralgia and poison arrow wounds (Malaysia). It
is widely believed among mangrove dwellers that chewing the leaves
will protect against snake bite. The pounded seeds are used to treat
boils, the juice of leaves to prevent hair loss and the leaves
themselves to ward off evil (Malay). Both species are also used to
treat kidney stones. The whole plant is boiled in fresh water, and
the patient drinks the solution instead of water, half a glass at a
time, until the signs and symptoms disappear (Thailand). Water
extracted from the bark is used to treat colds and skin allergies.
Ground fresh bark is used as an antiseptic. Tea brewed from the
leaves relieves pain and purifies the blood (widespread in both the
Old and New World).