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The European Holly is a holly native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia.
It is an evergreen tree growing to 15 - 23 m tall and 40 - 80 cm trunk diameter, with smooth grey bark. The leaves are 5 - 8 cm long and 2 - 4 cm broad, variable in shape; on young plants and low branches, with 3 - 5 sharp spines on each side, pointing alternately upward and downward; on higher branches of older trees with few or no spines except for the leaf tip.
The flowers are dioecious, white, four-lobed. The fruit is a red berry 6 - 10 mm diameter, containing four seeds; although mature in late autumn, they are very bitter so are rarely touched by birds until late winter after frost has made them softer and more palatable. They are poisonous for people.
Cultivation and uses
European Holly (Gaelic: cuileann) was traditionally the most sacred tree to druids and associated as the ruler of winter, ending on winter solstice. For pre-Christian pagan Romans, Holly was considered the plant of the God Saturn, celebrated at the Feast of Sol Invictus on December 25th. As a result, European Holly has always traditionally had a strong association with Christmas.
The wood is heavy, hard and white; one traditional use is (together with ebony) for chess pieces, with holly for the white pieces, and ebony for the black. Other uses include turnery, inlay work and as firewood.
Ilex Aquifolium - European Holly
Starter trees are 20 - 40 cm high
1 - 3 £3.50 each
4 - 6 £3.00 each
7+ £2.75 each