Holly
(Ilex aquifolium)
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothed
Prickly
Simple
Roundish
Alternate
Toothless
(usually toothed)

prickly leaves

toothless leaves

fruits

Male flowers
Male flowers

distribution map

The hairless, leathery, alternate leaves are dark green above and lighter beneath, with a very narrow, pale margin. They are up to 10 cm long on short stalks less than 10 mm in length. The margins are normally undulate with large triangular, spine-pointed teeth, but on old trees and upper branches the leaves may be spineless.

ID check

Holly is an evergreen tree or shrub with a grey, smooth bark usually only up to 10 m in height but reaching 20 m in cultivation. It is found in woods, scrub, hedges and rocky ravines up to 550 m in the mountains.

The male and female flowers are on separate trees, so only the females produce red berries.

The white, scented flowers, with 4 sepals and petals, are arranged in tight clusters and open in May.

The twigs are green and only slightly hairy when they are young.

Facts

  • Many varieties are cultivated - often with variegated leaves.

  • The berries are a favourite winter food of redwings, fieldfares and mistle thrushes.

  • The dense, heavy wood can be used for carving and making woodcuts.

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