Ilex aquifolium Information

Ilex aquifolium is an evergreen tree or shrub that belongs to the family Aquifoliaceae. It is commonly known as English holly, European holly, or simply holly. The plant is native to western and southern Europe, northwest Africa, and southwest Asia. Here are some key facts about Ilex aquifolium:

  • Appearance: Ilex aquifolium can grow up to 10-15 meters tall, but it is usually smaller in gardens. It has a dense, pyramidal form and glossy, dark green, spiny leaves that are 5-7 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. The plant is dioecious, meaning that male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. The female plants produce bright red berries that are about 1 cm in diameter and persist through winter.
  • Cultivation: Ilex aquifolium is a popular garden plant in temperate regions because of its attractive foliage and berries. It prefers moist, well-drained soils that are slightly acidic, and it tolerates partial shade. It is hardy to USDA zones 6-9.
  • Uses: Holly has a long history of use in Christmas decorations and other festive occasions. Its branches and berries are also used in floral arrangements and wreaths. The wood is hard and durable, and it has been used for carving and turning. In traditional medicine, holly has been used to treat fever, rheumatism, and other ailments.
  • Symbolism: Holly has been associated with various symbolic meanings in different cultures. In Christian tradition, it is said to represent the crown of thorns that Jesus wore at his crucifixion, and the red berries symbolize his blood. In pagan traditions, holly is a symbol of the winter solstice and the return of the sun. In Celtic mythology, holly is associated with the winter king and the oak with the summer king.
  • Toxicity: Holly leaves and berries contain toxic compounds, such as theobromine and caffeine, that can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms if ingested in large amounts. They can also be irritating to the skin and eyes. Therefore, it is important to keep holly out of the reach of children and pets.