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Holly
Aquifoliaceae
Ilex opaca


Thunder
Thunder
Type Categories Useful Parts

Tree




Aquifoliaceae Family

Ilex Genus
Other Names for this Plant

Christ’s thorn, Hulver bush, Bat’s wings, Tinne


Location

Native to North America. Grows naturally along the Atlantic coast and in the Southern states

Physical Description
As a small tree or shrub the Holly grows slowly and at best achieves heights of up to 50 feet (15 meters), in Britain however its normal height is closer to 30 to 40 feet (9-12 meters). In Italy and in the woodlands of Brittany in France, it grows to a much larger size.

As the Holly grows it branches and leaves from top to bottom, pointed at the top and leafy at its base like a pyramid. The trunk of the Holly is frequently knotted with small nodules of solid wood embedded in its bark, but these can be easily separated from the tree with a smart blow. The bark of the tree is delicate and thin, and tends to wrinkle around areas were it branches. It has a light ashen hue that is smooth and grey, and sometimes touched with a faint crimson. Quite often the bark is covered in a green algae and thin lichen consisting of curvy black lines.

The wood of the Holly is hard, compact, and close-grained. Its color is of beautiful white ivory that can be buffed to a very high polish. When freshly cut the wood has a slightly greenish hue but soon becomes perfectly white, and its hardness makes it superior to any other white wood. As such it is much prized for ornamental ware and the evenness of its grain makes it very valuable to the turner. It is also used for inlaying furniture with marquetry. However the wood of Holly is very retentive of its sap and as a consequence can warp if not well dried and seasoned before use. As well as an imitation of ivory, it is often stained different colors. When stained black it has the appearance of ebony, for which it is often used as a substitute. Of old, fancy walking sticks were made from Holly, as were the stocks of light riding whips. Today it is used in delicate instruments such as weather-gauges and barometers.

The leaves of the Holly tree have a leathery texture and are thick, green, and glossy. Normally about 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches broad, they are edged with stout prickles alternately pointing upwards and downwards, while most of the upper leaves have only a single prickle. The leaves have neither taste nor odor and remain attached to the tree for several years. When they fall, the leaves take a long time to decay, defying the natural actions of air and moisture.

In May the Holly bears its flowers, these are pale pink on the outside and pure white on the inside. Male and female flowers are usually borne on different trees. The female flowers are pollinated by insects such as wild bees attracted by the smell of a honey like liquid released from their bases. Later the flower produces the familiar and distinctive clusters of brilliant scarlet/red berries. If a tree produces its berries well one year, it will normally rest the following year before producing again.




Compare Species
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Aquifoliaceae
Aquifoliales
Aquifoliales
Water Leaf Order (Holly)
Euasterids II
Euasterids II
Real Stars Group Two
Asteridae
Asteridae
Class of Stars (Daisies)
Core Eudicots
Core Eudicots
Main, Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Eudicots
Eudicots
Real, Two First-Leaves (Dicots)
Mesangiospermae
Mesangiospermae
Half Capsule Seed Division
Magnoliophyta
Magnoliophyta
Magnolia Division
Spermatophytes
Spermatophytes
Seed Plants
Euphyllophytina
Real Land Plants
Polysporangiates
Multiple Spore Sub-Kingdom
Stomatophytes
Stomatophytes
Air Pores Sub-Kingdom
Embryophytes
Embryophytes
Multicellular Land Plants
Streptobionta
Streptobionta
Multicellular Plants
Plantae
Plantae
Plants
Eukaryota
Eukaryota
Cells with a Nucleus


General Information

The ancient Romans used holly in their winter Saturnalia festivals. When early Christians celebrated the birth of Jesus in December, they too "decked the halls with boughs of holly" to avoid attracting unwanted attention. As the population of Christians grew, holly lost its pagan association and became a symbol of the Christmas season and has even been featured on United States postage stamps.

Medicinal Uses: Holly leaves were formerly used as a diaphoretic and an infusion of them was given in catarrh, bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, pleurisy, and smallpox. They have also been used in intermittent fevers and rheumatism for their tonic properties. The juice of the fresh leaves has been used to advantage in jaundice, and when sniffed was said to stop a runny nose. When soaked in vinegar and left for a day and a night, it was used to cure corns. An old remedy for chilblains was to thrash them with a branch of Holly to “chase the chills out”, but this could also be painful.

The berries possess totally different qualities to the leaves, being violently emetic and purgative, and if swallowed can cause excessive vomiting. They have been used in dropsy, and in a powder form as an astringent to check bleeding. Nicholas Culpeper in his “The Complete Herbal” (1653) say’s that: “the bark and leaves are good used as fomentations for broken bones and such members as are out of joint”. He also considered the berries to be curative of colic. Care needs to be taken however, for Holly berries can be poisonous if given to children

Food Uses: The leaves of the Holly were used in the Black Forest as a substitute for tea. In Brazil

“Paraguay Tea” is made from the dried leaves and oung shoots of another species of Holly called (Ilex Paraguayensis), which grows in South America. Other types used to make tea are (Ilex Gongonha) and (Ilex Theezans), all of which are considered valuable as diuretics and diaphoretics.

The roasted leaves are used as a tea substitute. They do not contain caffeine. The drink was a very popular tea substitute during the American Civil war

Other Notes: According to the Celtic Tree Calendar the Holly tree represents the eighth month of the year (July 8th - Aug 4th), which includes the Celtic festival of Lughnassadh (Lammas) celebrated on the 1st of August

Holly is commonly used all over the world as a Christmas decoration, a custom derived from the early Romans who sent boughs of Holly and other gifts to their friends during Saturnalia, the Roman festival of Saturn held around the 17th of December to celebration of the Winter Solstice.

In an old Christian legend the Holly is said to have sprung up under the footsteps of Christ as he trod the earth, the spines of the leaves became symbolic of “Crown of Thorns”, the red berries representing the drops of blood associated with his suffering. From this symbology the Holly tree became known as “Christ's Thorn” or the “Holy Tree”.

After the advent of Christianity, and during their Christmas and New Year celebrations, a man would be dressed up and covered in Holly branches and leaves, while a woman was likewise dressed in Ivy (the female counterpart of Holly) and together paraded through the streets leading the old year into the new.

Pliny the Elder (AD 23-79) a Roman naturalist in his classic “Historia naturalis”, an old world encyclopedic study of plants and animal life, tells us that if Holly is planted near a house or farm, it would repelled poison and defended it from lightning and witchcraft. Also that its flowers cause water to freeze and that its wood when thrown at an animal, even without touching it, had the power to compel the animal to return and lie down.

The wood of the Holly tree burns very hot and its charcoal was used to forge the swords, knives, and tools necessary for survival and protection. The old smithies and weapon-makers were considered to be great magicians for their ability to use the elements of fire and earth to create these tools

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Warning: The is a low toxicity level of Illicin, possibly saponic glycosides, and triterpenoids in the Berries. Children are at special risk due to the inviting red of the berries. Symptoms of poisoning are Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea



Holly
Flowers...very small!



Holly
Showing leaves and Unripe berries



Holly
Showing leaves and ripe berries



Holly
Tree

Comment: Holly, Ilex opaca

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