Description:Beautiful sharply spined, glossy dark evergreen leaves and masses of bright red (sometimes yellow and very rare white) winter berries.The Ilex aquifolium Alaska has a very dense growth habit and produces more berries than the native Ilex aquifolium. The Holly normally lives up to 150 years (some specimens have lived 250) and will keep its leaves for about eight years. Hollies in heavily polluted cities will shed leaves every one to two years. Hollies are slow growing, taking many years to reach tree like proportions, they are not fussy about soil type or situation.
History and Folklore :
Holly trees are native to Ireland. It is believed the Holly evolved its tell tale spikes to protect its leaves from being eaten by wild animals such as deer. On many mature hollies the leaves are not spiked above about 12 feet—the height where even a stag deer on its hind legs would struggle to reach! One of the “nobles of the wood” in the ancient Irish law tract “Bretha Comhaithchesa” possibly because it provided chariot shafts as recorded in the Irish sagas. The fairies were said to like the Holly tree and it was considered bad luck to misuse it as is reflected in the old superstition to never clean your chimney with a branch of holly.
Holly timber when stained black has served as a substitute for ebony which was used for mathematical instruments, knife handles and bobbins etc. The wood can be turned and polishes beautifully. Holly was cut as cattle fodder in certain parts of Ireland until the middle of the present century. The principal use for Holly now is Christmas time, when it is used for decorations indoors and outdoors.