The 135-acre reservation is named for its donor, Abbot Lawrence Lowell, and its stands of some 250 native American holly trees (Ilex opaca), which grow naturally only along the New England coast.
Although the reservation is a rare example of a Cape Cod old-growth forest, it also reflects the horticultural tastes of Abbott Lowell, former president of Harvard University. After purchasing the property from John Rothery (who purchased the land from Fred Jonas, a Wampanoag), Lowell embellished the landscape with scattered plantings of rosebay and catawba rhododendrons (as well as mountain laurel). Although natural stands of these rhododendrons have never been found on Cape Cod, the region’s mild climate and acid soils make moist places on the reservation ideal habitat for these trees. Lowell bequeathed the property to The Trustees in 1943 with the hopes that the reservation would be preserved for its outstanding display of flora.
His hopes were soon answered. In 1949, Wilfred Wheeler, Sr., a former Massachusetts Secretary of Agriculture and an enthusiastic member of the American Holly Society (he was known as the “Dean of American Hollies”), continued Lowell’s tradition by planting some 50 varieties of American holly. Today, Lowell Holly is one of the northern-most study grounds for American holly and stands as a tribute to Lowell and Wheeler’s efforts.