Wild Flower of the Week: Holly
Holly is a plant that is strongly associated with Christmas. The blood red berries and spines gave the plant religious significance to early Christians but, even earlier, the Celts held the holly and the oak as the two most important trees and the Romans featured holly in their Saturnalia events. Most holly trees are either male or female with only the females carrying berries.
Some garden forms are better than others. Ilex aquifolium ‘JC van Tol’ and ‘Pyramidalis’ are self- fertile and are good for berries but have rather plain leaves. Variegated hollies tend to have fewer berries while, just to confuse you, ‘Golden Queen’ is male! A good berry crop does not mean the tree can anticipate a hard winter but reflects the amount of sun earlier in the season. Other native plants, such as ivy, were used as decoration but less so now that other plants such as poinsettias- usually red – are available.
Robins are also often seen on Christmas cards possibly as Victorian postmen wore red jackets. In winter, all robins sing to defend individual territories, so Cock Robin may be a hen. Some of the robins in Scotland in winter have crossed the North Sea earlier in the autumn.