Tree Stories 6 – Holly

Holly is now published on its own page – please follow the links above.

Prickly even as dried leaves, holly was a tree that took me a while to get close to and really appreciate. However, it grows so easily underneath deciduous trees and is so unlike other British natives that I have come to really enjoy its glossy leaves that reflect light on the dullest of days. I have several holly plants in my garden – a small tree in the corner which has been here longer than we have and now forms part of the hedge, a few more we planted in gaps in the hedge, and an abundance of seedlings that spring up all over the garden. I think it’s trying to tell me something!

It is traditionally effective against evil spirits, and will apparently give protection to elves and fairies. I’m not sure how this works personally, but many animals may take refuge within its evergreen branches, and besides ponies and cattle, deer, sheep and rabbits make a good meal from the leaves and the bark. Birds also enjoy the berries, which are borne on female plants. They are poisonous to humans, however the Holly leaves are said to make a good infusion for easing catarrh, pleurisy, coughs, colds and flu.

The wood was prized for its ability to take colour stains, and was used extensively in marquetry. It was also used for spear shafts, chariot wheels, walking sticks, and for hedging as it forms an impenetrable barrier.

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