Identify It > Trees Section > Holly Trees >
Scientific name: Ilex aquifolium
Size: Holly is a slow growing tree, but can attain a height of around 20 metres
Distribution: Found throughout most of the U.K.
Flowering months: The holly tree flowers between May and July. Male and female flowers appear on separate trees. In late autumn the female trees produce the familiar bright red berries
Habitat: Found in damp meadows and ditches
Special features: Holly trees are one of our few native evergreen trees. The bark of the Holly is smooth and grey coloured, and their leaves are thick and shiny. On the lower branches the leaves are usually more prickly than on the branches higher up. This is a defense against grazing animals such as cows, horses, deer and rabbits.
On some leaves you may notice a raised brown spot. This is the home of a Holly Leaf Miner. As its name implies it lives inside the leaf and eats away at the soft tissues between the outer surfaces of the leaf. There is normally just one per leaf. Eventually the leaf miner will pupate and exit the leaf as a small black fly (Phytomyza ilicis).
The colourful appearance of Holly trees throughout winter has made them a popular Christmas decoration for hundreds of years. Because of their association with the Christmas celebrations the berries were once known as 'holy berries'.
There is a great amount of folklore and superstition surrounding Holly trees. It was believed that holly planted around a house could protect the property against lightning strikes, sickness and witchcraft!