The meservae hybrids were recently developed in New York during the 1960s. Breeders sought to increase cold hardiness and improve visual appeal by crossing various holly species, with emphasis on those from norther Japan. The most well known parent is English holly, Ilex aquifolium, native from Europe to Asia. The Asian species includes Japanese Ilex integra and I. crenata. Genus Ilex contains over 300 species from around the world and on every continent. A sport of Monrovia's Little Rascal® Holly, Scallywag was discovered by a Monrovia craftsman, introduced in 2011 and awarded "Best Shrub" at the 2011 Farwest New Varieties Showcase.
Holly was named Ilex after a prickly leaf European oak, Quercus ilex. Holly and oaks were both sacred plants to the ancient Celts who honored holly for retaining its foliage through winter. It was believed that the spirits of vegetation were strongest in evergreen plants and therefore brought into homes for winter blessings from nature.