Holly, Ilex aquifolium

The genus Holly (Ilex) forms its own family Aquifoliaceae). It declines in 300 species.

Etymology: from the francique " hûliz "; in Breton " quelen ". Ilex aquifolium, "with leaves with sharp teeth".
Origin: Europe (common Holly).
Habitat : shade, humid atmosphere (where it is next to Beeches). It tolerates limestones (more frequent on sour substrate), as well as altitude.
Hardiness: zone 7 (it supports cold until -17 °C or 1 °F).
Maximum size : shrub or tree of 10 m tall, sometimes 25 m tall.
Slow growth.
Lifespan: 300 years.
Smooth grey silver bark.
Persistent foliage (leaves live 3 years). Elliptical leaves, tough of 5-8 cm, prickly (characteristic) margin, of shining dark green colour.
Species dioecious. Small, odorous flowers, in May.
Fruits: characteristic, very toxic red drupes for the man. They are resplendent in winter (towards Christmas). Birds use them and disperse seeds.
Legends and traditions: In Greek mythology, tree of Lifespan, because it matures in winter, but its berries is very toxic (because of the theobromine).
Use: the Holly makes easily in hedge. Its branches make brooms. Its wood contains a bitter principle, the ilicine. It is hard and can be worked, turned, etc. Finally, the red, ripe berries in winter, are of a nice effect as Christmas decoration.
Danger: fruits contain a powerful alkaloid: the theobromine, the effect of which is violently purgative (guaranteed vomiting).

Other species:
Hybrid Holly, leaves with smooth margin.
Ilex aquifolium bacciflava, the leaf of which is identical to that of the common Holly, but the fruit distinguishes itself by its bright yellow colour.
American Holly, Ilex opaca leaves of which are of a less dark green than in the common Holly, and less shaped. The red fruit is grafted on a short peduncle. There are many hybrids, the leaves of which are dark green without thorn, and smooth margin.


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