Holly can be found throughout the Lizard and interestingly in Cornwall, holly was once traditionally used instead of a Christmas tree. It is such a symbol of Christmas and today, it remains probably the most popular plant for Christmas decorations. Holly was adopted by Christian tradition, but its folklore history goes back much earlier. It was believed to ward off evil spirits, witches, goblins and the devil! and to bring good luck.

I used to use it as decoration in the house but now feel that I would rather leave it for the birds especially reading that the berries are such a vital source of food for birds in winter. Apparently the berries are also eaten by small mammels such as wood mice and dormice.

This year has been amazing in terms of the number of berries on the holly trees. It is only the female trees that have the berries as it is the female flowers develop into the scarlet berries.

It is a native tree to the UK and also interestingly also in Europe, N Africa and western Asia. It is an ancient woodland indicator as it is often found in oak woods.

Some interesting facts about the holly

  • the mistle thrush is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them
  • the leaves at the top of Holly trees are usually spineless. The spines have evolved as a deterrent to browsing predators such as deer, so there is no need for spines on leaves that are out of their reach.
  • In the late eighteenth to nineteenth centuries, Holly was used extensively to make horsewhips. As well as having the right properties of pliability folklore said that Holly had magical power over horses
  • holly is commonly used to make walking sticks
  • mature trees can grow up to 15m and live for 300 years
  • Holly wood is the whitest of all wood and is used to make furniture or in engraving work

Sources: https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/visiting-woods/trees-woods-and-wildlife/british-trees/native-trees/holly/  and http://the-lizard.org/

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