Holly (Ilex Aquifolium)

The Holly tree (Ilex aquifolium) is a beautiful evergreen whose berries and leaves have been long used to produce attractive Christmas decorations.

  • Holly Tree  -  Ilex Aquifolium  -  Young Holly Sapling  -  Mere Sands Wood  -  Lancashire
  • Holly  -  Ilex Aquifolium  -  Leaves

Useful info about Holly trees

Latin NameIlex Aquifolium
HeightCan grow up to 15 - 20 metres (50 - 65 feet)
SpreadThe branches can spread out to 10 - 15 metres (35 - 50 feet)
Soil Types PreferredChalk, Clay, Limestone, Sand
Locations SuitableBalconies, Farmland, Gardens, Hedgerows, Parks, Patios
FlowersPink-white flowers in May
FruitRed berries in late autumn
Celtic Tree MonthJuly 8 - August 4


Holly is native to Britain, western and southern Europe, northwest Africa and southwest Asia. It is often used as hedgerow plant.

The glossy green leaves are 5 - 12 cm long and 2 - 6 cm broad, with three to five sharp spines on each side, pointing alternately upward and downward. On higher branches of older trees they have few or no spines except for the leaf tip.

It has small, white flowers in spring that pollinated by bees.

The flowers are are both male and female, white, four-lobed, and pollinated by bees.

The red berries are 6 - 10 mm in diameter. They mature in late autumn, but are very bitter due to their ilicin content. So they are rarely touched by birds until late winter after frost has made them softer and more palatable.

Holly berries are somewhat toxic to humans, though their poisonous properties are overstated and fatalities almost unknown


Holly wood is a very pale, white wood. It's heavy, hard and fine grained making it ideal for furniture or engraving. Holly wood also makes good firewood.

Holly branches are often used to decorate homes and make wreaths at Christmas.

Holly is rarely used medicinally due to its toxicity, but is diuretic, relieves fevers and has a laxative action.


Any uses for trees or tree extracts, whether edible or medicinal, have not been tried or tested by EFORESTS.

Please take caution and seek proper advice before attempting any recipes or medicinal extracts from any of the trees listed on our site.

Culture and Symbolism

Holly trees are believed to represent peace, protection and hope.

Holly branches have long been used to decorate homes in winter - well before the first Christmas. The Romans used to give each other holly boughs during their winter festival of Saturnalia.

The tree was also thought to be a fertility symbol and charm against witches, goblins and the devil. Cutting down a holly tree was thought to be unlucky.

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