Holly Tree Types And General Care – Epic Gardening 2023

Holly Tree Types And General Care – Epic Gardening 2023

Also known in some places with the popular name of agrifolio, the holly is a shrub or, at most, a small tree about 6 or 7 meters high, evergreen, with a straight trunk, pyramidal shape, which branches from the base and that it can live up to 500 years.

Its bark is smooth throughout its life.

 At first, it is greenish, and from the second or third year, it takes on a definitive dark gray tone. Its leaves are alternate, rigid, hairless, and shiny, with an oval shape and, as its most characteristic quality, a strongly thorny edge in young specimens and the lower branches in adults, the leaves of the branches lacking thorns.

 Higher, and in adult specimens so that when the tree has already developed, these teeth – which act as the plant’s natural defense against herbivores – tend to disappear. The leaves last about five years, continuously renewed, so the tree always appears green. 

The holly is a dioecious plant, which means that it has male and female feet, the presence of one and the other nearby being necessary for the formation of the fruit. In male specimens, the flowers appear in yellowish axillary groups. In females, isolated or in groups of three, they are small and white or slightly pinkish and are made up of four petals and four sepals partially fused at the base. 

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The female specimens produce a fleshy fruit that contains 4 or 5 seeds inside (it is a berry), of a bright red or bright yellow color, which ripens very late, around October or November, reaching its fullness in December-January, for which is widely used as a Christmas decoration.

 The fruit is consistent and remains on the tree for a long time, often throughout the winter, being a highly coveted food for birds, particularly frugivorous birds (those that eat fruits) such as thrushes and blackbirds, with the peculiarity that they do not germinate until the second year, in case of being ingested by a bird such as a blackbird. 

Attention: The fruits of the holly are poisonous and very toxic, so it is estimated that the accidental consumption of some of its berries can cause the death of a child or that of an adult ingesting 20 to 30 berries. Therefore, we must refrain from planting it in places frequented by children who may accidentally consume the plant since, due to its appearance, it can be confused with other edible wild fruits such as the hawthorn. 

Since ancient times, holly has been widely used in gardening due to its unique beauty in its leaves and fruits, as well as being an excellent hedge as it tolerates pruning well, so there are a large number of varieties or “cultivar” species with irregular shapes and colors, particularly in its leaves. 

Its traditional and widespread use as a Christmas decoration has caused not a minor damage to the species, to the point of being in danger of extinction in some areas. Today it is a protected species in large areas of several European countries, also in Spain in general and in Andalusia in particular, where it is a protected wild species, rare in its natural habitats. 

The holly has a white or grayish wood with a fine and uniform texture; it lacks drawings or veins and is very hard, heavy, and compact, highly valued in cabinetmaking, marquetry, and turnery. Does not float in water. It takes dyes very well, so perfect imitations of ebony are made. Traditional use of holly wood has been to make rifle ramrods and handles for agricultural tools. 

It is a glabrous, functionally dioecious shrub or small tree, usually about 6 or 15 m tall, with a straight trunk, pyramidal shape, and a dense and branchy crown from the base. It has smooth bark throughout its life. 

At first, it is greenish, and from the second or third year, it takes on a definitive dark gray tone. Its leaves are persistent, simple, petiolate, alternate, with an oval shape and, as its most characteristic quality, with a strongly tapered edge in the young specimens and the lower branches in the adults and, neither spiny laterally, nor coriaceous and of a much lighter color in the young ones of the units superior to the latter.

 They last about five years and are very bright green on the upper side, dull yellowish green on the underside, completely hairless, rigid, and coriaceous.

The flowers can be up to 9 mm in diameter, the female ones somewhat less, and appear alone or in more or less dense cymes The female ones are dialipetalas. The male ones are rosaceous ( actinomorphic with a very short tube and patent petals ), all white or pinkish, and occasionally spotted with purple. They have four or five sepals and the same number of petals, staminodes welded to the receptacle below the ovary in the female ones, and stamens welded to the corolla in the male. 

The female specimens produce a slightly fleshy fruit ( drupe ), globose/ellipsoidal centimetric, initially green and then bright red or bright yellow, which ripens very late -around October or November- and remains for a long time. On the tree, often throughout the winter. It contains four or five seeds ( pyrenes ) inside.

It can live up to five hundred years, although usually, it does not exceed one hundred.

Distribution

Holly trees are found in western Asia and Europe, forming part, with loose specimens, of the undergrowth of oak and beech forests. Although sometimes it can create a dense thicket as the dominant species. As it always requires humid and shady environments, it grows inside forests or on shady slopes, cliffs, and mountain gorges. 

It rises to over 2000 meters and is always on fresh and loose soils, preferably siliceous. In Spain, they are mainly associated with oak forests and mountain areas, highlighting the Cantabrian Mountains, the North Sub -plateau, and nearby mountainous regions. The Garagüeta holly forest in the province of Soria is the largest existing holly forest in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Europe. 

It comprises 406 hectares of forest, of which 180 are a continuous pure mass of holly trees that grow in a labyrinthine way, forming vaults in which thrushes, roe deer, and thrushes take refuge. The complex has an extraordinary ecological value [ citation needed ]. The giant holly tree in the Central System is in the Segovian municipality of Prádena. 

Applications

folk medicine

Holly was already known to Aristotle. He called him “Palinuro” in his texts. Traditional natural medicine has been used holly since ancient times. Its properties derive from the presence in its leaves of ilicin (ilixanthin), caffeinated acid, dextrose, gum, wax, and other substances in smaller quantities. 

The infusion of the cooked leaves was used as a diuretic and laxative. The fruits are purgative and, in higher doses, an active emetic (very dangerous for children). Also, the maceration in wine, of the leaves cut into pieces, served as a tonic.

Hunting

The bark of the trunk and branches contains silicene hydrocarbon, fatty acids, pectin, and viscin. From this bark, cooked and fermented by burial, the league is obtained to hunt birds. The use of this hunting art is ancient. Receiving a garter from holly can be found described in 18th-century plant books. 

The garter or lily is a viscous substance with which the braces (of esparto grass, reeds, etc.) are smeared and then placed in places visited by the birds, and they remain attached to them by their feathers. The garter is also obtained from mistletoe ( Viscum album ) and sesame ( Andryala Augustina ). 

It is currently manufactured from synthetic adhesive products. Using a league to hunt birds is prohibited in Spain as it is a non-selective method of hunting. A sentence of the Constitutional Court of June 4, 2013, declared unconstitutional, and without effect, the last Law of the Valencian Community 13/2004, article 10, which tried to legalize the hunting of thrushes, using league, through the traditional “parity. 

Domestic

Holly has, since ancient times, been an important use in gardening due to its unique beauty in its leaves and fruits and being an excellent hedge because it tolerates pruning well, just like boxwood. There are many gardens with patterned holly hedges, especially in the UK.

Holly Tree Types And General Care – Epic Gardening 2023

The holly plant is also used with the mistletoe ( Viscum album ) as a house decoration during the Christmas season. It was traditionally used in northern and central Europe in winter, as it usually bears fruit. Later this custom spread to other countries in the mid-twentieth century, including Spain in 1930.

Cabinetmaking

The holly has a highly valued wood in cabinetmaking. It is rugged and compact, so much so that it does not float on water, as happens with boxwood ( Buxus sempervirens ) and rosewood ( Bulnesia Sarmiento ), among others. It has no drawing and is challenging to work with. It is used in marquetry, turnery, carpenter’s tools, butts of firearms, etc. It takes dyes very well, for which perfect imitations of ebony ( Diospyros ebenum ) are made.

As a curious fact, in the reconstruction of the Royal Palace of Madrid (the year 1738), holly wood was used in its windows due to its good quality and resistance to rot. 

protected species holly tree

The harvesting of holly for medicinal, ornamental, hunting, and cabinetmaking uses caused a great deal of damage, to the point of being in danger of extinction in many places. It is currently a protected species in large areas of several European countries. Throughout the Spanish territory, it is also covered. 

The fact that its fruits ripen in winter gives this plant a significant ecological value, as it is a unique source of food for many species, particularly birds, during the harshest season due to the scarcity of resources. The capercaillie ( Tetrao urogallus ), a bird also protected in Spain, feeds in midwinter on drupes and, failing these, on holly leaves.

For Christmas consumption, hollies are grown in pots by plant nurseries and sold during the holidays. There are also currently experimental plans for forest reforestation using holly trees. 

Currently, the province of Soria has more than 1,500 hectares of pure natural holly groves. Its traditional Holly Festival is celebrated in the municipality of Ocala on December 9. 

disambiguation holly tree

Perhaps due to similar uses, mistletoe ( Viscum album ) is often confused with holly ( Ilex aquifolium ). Interestingly, both are used for their medicinal properties, are used as Christmas decorations, and are the raw material for making hunting garter. However, both plants have nothing else in common and are very different.

The holly is a large tree that reaches 10 m in height. It has green, perennial leaves, and fruits in the form of red drupes.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant whose stems, up to about 50 cm long, climb the trunks and branches of its host trees. The fruits, in the form of berries, are similar to white grape grains, although smaller and more translucent. It is often a threat to the life of the forest species it parasitizes because it quickly becomes a pest.

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