Holly Ilex aquifolium

Status Green - Least concern
Best Time to See May, June, July, August
Colour Red
Habitat Woodland

With its prickly leaves and bright red berries, a true icon of Christmas.

Holly was used by people in times gone by to ward off evil and some could argue it still does - its dense, spiky thickets can provide an effective barrier against intruders.

Identification

The flowers are small, white and have four petals. They grow from the join of the leaves with the stem. The leaves are dark green and have a glossy sheen.

Distribution

Throughout Britain, but with pockets of fewer plants in some areas of Scotland.

Habitat

Grows in woodland, scrubland as well as some hedgerows.

Did you know?

Along with ivy, it is celebrated in the famous Christmas Carol of the same name. In Western Christian culture, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration. It is used in wreathes and illustrations, for instance on Christmas cards. For many Christians it represents the Crown of Thorns worn by Jesus (hence the name Christ's Thorn) and its bright red berries symbolise the drops of His blood.

Like ivy, however, holly has cultural roots that predate Christianity. As evergreen species both were seen as especially powerful during the leafless days of winter. Sprigs were said to ward off evil spirits and inside the home kept the house goblins at bay. Of the two, holly - spiky and angular - was said to represent the masculine as compared to the shapely femininity of ivy.

Holly is used to symbolize truth in heraldry.

Other local names include Aunt Mary's Tree, Crocodile, Hollin, Prick-bush, Hulver and Killin.

More Yuletide plants: