Holly Ilex aquifolium
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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.
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.
Throughout Britain, but with pockets of fewer plants in some areas of Scotland.
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. For many it represents the Crown of Thorns and its bright red berries symbolising drops of 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 holly.
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