Tree of the week: Ilex aquifolium – English Holly – Common Holly – Christmas Holly

Good day,

With Christmas by the corner, now is the time to invest in festive foliage!

Ilex aquifolium, commonly called the Common Holly is a densely branched evergreen tree with a pyramidal shape. Although native to Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, this slow growing tree or shrub is now grown all over the world due to its close association with Christmas. I. aquifolium has a potential to reach a mature height of 10m in its natural habitat however, it is often found at much smaller heights [2-3m] in the landscapes.

Leaves of this tree are elliptic, leathery, glossy, and wavy-margined with large spiny teeth. The bark is dark grey and it normally does not exceed a diameter of one metre. At the beginning of autumn, I. aquifolium produces small white fragrant flowers which are followed by bright red berries in late autumn to mid-winter. This shrub is dioecious, it only fruits when the male and female plants are grown together. Female flowers have a visible green ovary in the centre of their blooms while male flowers are distinguished by their four yellow stamens.

The Common Holly can be grown as a specimen tree or shrub. The slow growth habit and dense crown make this tree a suitable choice for hedging. Ilex aquifolium also has medicinal value, the leaves can be used to treat fever, smallpox and jaundice. This beautiful tree can grow in full shade, semi-shade or full sun.  It prefers dry or moist soil but can tolerate drought.