Monday, November 23, 2015

English Holly

We will be learning how to make wreaths at our meeting on Tuesday Nov 24th. This is a great way to use up some of the invasive English holly which springs up all over the place.
Hanging a circular wreath of evergreens during mid winter seems to go back a very long way. It might have started back in Roman times when wreaths were hung on their doors as a sign of victory. 

Christmas Wreaths as we know them today, might have started life as Kissing Boughs in the Middle Ages. These were hoops, forming a ball, covered with Holly, Ivy, Rosemary, Bay, Fir or other evergreen plants. Inside the hoops were hung red apples (often hung from red ribbons), candles was either put inside the ball at the bottom or around the horizontal hoop. The bough was finished by hanging a large bunch of mistletoe from the bottom of the ball.

English holly (Ilex aquifolium) is grown for its bright red berries and spiny, dark green evergreen foliage. It has become seriously invasive because of its adaptability to grow in shade or sun, and the ease with which its seeds are spread by birds. Seedlings are now commonly found in mixed deciduous and coniferous forests, along the edges of wetlands and especially near residential areas. English holly grows rapidly 7 to 10 m tall, casting deep shade that deprives native plants of light. Its roots effectively out-compete many native species for nutrients and water; it is a notorious water hog, thus preventing native plants from obtaining sufficient water. Learn more at  

When English holly becomes the most frequent non-native species in a forest understorey, it could replace aging deciduous forests instead of native coniferous forest ecosystems.

English holly-Ilex aquifolium via wiki

What you can do to help

Keep English holly out of your garden. Birds easily disperse the eye-catching red berries that hold holly seeds, spreading them deep into our neighbouring forests. Holly also escapes by suckering and layering. The best strategy to keep holly out of our forests and native habitat is by keeping it out of your garden.

Hand-pull small seedlings when the soil is moist. 

Cut larger trees at ground level and regularly monitor the area for re-sprouting either at the stump or through suckers nearby. Eventually, diligent cutting will kill the root system.

Dispose of holly seeds
Holly berries should be placed in the garbage to make sure they don't sprout elsewhere. Holly stems and leaves can be composted, but watch they don't sprout roots.

Removing holly can leave gaps in a forest - future habitat for any number of deserving native species. 

Alternative plants 

Tall Oregon grape, Indian plum, and red elderberry. 

Fun Facts

In heraldry holly is used to symbolize truth.

In the Harry Potter novels holly is used as the wood in the titular character's wand.

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed reading your article. I found this as an informative and interesting post, so i think it is very useful and knowledgeable. I would like to thank you for the effort you have made in writing this article.


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