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European holly

Ilex aquifolium (Familie Stechpalmengewächse, Aquifoliaceae)

Distribution: Europe to western Asia, Mediterranean region, NW Africa.

Appearance: Evergreen tree up to 15 m tall, often multi-stemmed or growing more like a shrub; leaves leathery, margins usually wavy and coarsely spiny-toothed, but sometimes with entire margins. The white or soft reddish flowers appear densely crowded in the leaf axils in May or early June, the bright red 7-10 mm drupes in autumn.

The holly is an exotic-looking rarity in our forests. Besides boxwood, it is the only species of deciduous tree native to our country with evergreen foliage. It is dioecious, meaning that one plant flowers either male or female. The flowers are pollinated by beetles, flies, hoverflies, wild bees and honeybees. The fruits often remain on the tree through the winter and are an important emergency food for blackbirds, thrushes, robins, blackcaps and other bird species. For humans the fruits are poisonous!

Because its branches with shiny green leaves and red fruits have been a coveted Christmas decoration for centuries, the natural stands of holly have been massively overused in many places. It has therefore been protected since the first half of the last century.

Blütenstände der europäischen Stechpalme (weiß)

Inflorescence (Photo: G. Aas)

rote Früchte der europäischen Stechpalme

Die attraktiven Früchte bleiben oft den Winter über am Baum (Foto: G. Aas)

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