High infection rates of European holly (Ilex aquifolium) feeder roots by an unknown root-knot nematode were found in a holly forest at Arévalo de la Sierra (Soria province) in northern Spain. Holly trees infected by the root-knot nematode showed some decline and low growth. Infected feeder roots were distorted and showed numerous root galls of large (8-10 mm) to moderate (2-3 mm) size. Morphometry, esterase and malate dehydrogenase electrophoretic phenotypes and phylogenetic trees of sequences within the ribosomal DNA (rDNA) demonstrated that this nematode species differs clearly from other previously described root-knot nematodes. Studies of host-parasite relationships showed a typical susceptible reaction in naturally infected European holly plants, but did not reproduce on a number of cultivated plants, including tomato, grapevine, princess-tree and olive. The species is described here, illustrated and named as Meloidogyne silvestris n. sp. The new root-knot nematode can be morphologically distinguished from other Meloidogyne spp. by: (i) roundish perineal pattern, dorsal arch low, with fine, sinuous cuticle striae, lateral fields faintly visible; (ii) female excretory pore level with stylet knobs, or just anterior to them, EP/ST ratio about 0·8; (iii) second-stage juveniles with hemizonid located 1 to 2 annuli anterior to excretory pore and short, sub-digitate tail; and (iv) males with lateral fields composed of four incisures, with areolated outer bands. Phylogenetic trees derived from maximum parsimony analysis based on 18S, ITS1-5·8S-ITS2 and D2-D3 of 28S rDNA showed that M. silvestris n. sp. can be differentiated from all described root-knot nematode species, and it is clearly separated from other species with resemblance in morphology, such as M. ardenensis, M. dunensis and M. lusitanica.