1902 Encyclopedia > Holly


HOLLY, Ilex, L., a genus of trees and shrubs of the natural order Ilicinece or Aquifoliacew, containing some one hundred and fifty species, of which several occur in the temperate northern hemisphere, North-West America ex-cepted, by far the larger number in tropical Asia and America, and very few in Africa and Australia. In Europe, where I. Aquifolium is the sole surviving species, the genua was richly represented during the Miocene period by forms at first South American and Asiatic, and later North Ameri-can in type (Schimper, Pdleont. Veget, iii. 204,1874). The leaves are generally coriaceous and evergreen, and are alternate and stalked ; the flowers are commonly dioecious, are in axillary cymes, fascicles, or umbellules, and have a persistent four- to five-lobed or parted calyx, a white, rotate four- or rarely five- or six-cleft corolla, with the four or five stamens adherent to its base in the male, sometimes hypo-gynous in the female flowers, and a two- to twelve-celled ovary; and the fruit is a globose, very seldom ovoid, and usually red drupe, containing two to sixteen one-seeded stones.

The Common Holly, or Hulver (apparently the _____ of Theophrastus j Ang.-Sax., holen or holegn; Mid. Eng., holyn or holin, whence holm and holmtree ; Welsh, celyn; Germ., Stechpalme, Hülse, Hülst; Old Fr., houx; and Fr., houlx), I. Aquifolium, L., is an evergreen shrub or low tree, having smooth, ash-coloured bark, and wavy, pointed, smooth, and glossy leaves, 2 to 3 inches long, with a spinous margin, raised and cartilaginous below, or, as commonly on the upper branches of the older trees, entire _—a peculiarity alluded to by Southey in his poem The Holly Tree. The flowers, which appear in May, are ordinarily dioecious, as in all the best of the cultivated varieties in nurseries (Gard. Chron., 1877, i. 149). Darwin (Biff. Forms of Flow., p. 297, 1877) says of the holly: " During several years I have examined many plants, but have never found one that was really herma-phrodite." Shirley Hibberd, however (Gard. Chron., 1877, ii. 777), mentions the occurrence of "flowers bearing globose anthers well furnished with pollen, and also per-fect ovaries." In his opinion, I. Aquifolium changes its sex from male to female with age. In the female flowers the stamens are destitute of pollen, though but slightly or not at all shorter than in the male flowers ; the latter are more numerous than the female, and have a smaller ovary, and a larger corolla, to which the filaments adhere for a greater length. The corolla in male plants falls off entire, whereas in fruit-bearers it is broken into separate segments by the swelling of the young ovary (M'Nab). The holly occurs in Britain, north-east Scotland excepted, and in western and southern Europe, from as high as 62° N. lat. in Norway to Turkey and the Caucasus, and in western Asia. It is found generally in forest glades or in hedges, and does not flourish under the shade of other trees. In Eng-land it is usually small, probably on account of its destruc-tion for timber, but it may attain to 60 or 70 feet in height, and Loudon mentions one tree at Claremont, in Surrey, of 80 feet. Some of the trees on Bleak Hill, Shropshire, are asserted to be 14 feet in girth at some dis-tance from the ground (N~. and Q., 5th ser., xii. 508). The holly is abundant in France, especially in Britanny. It will grow in almost any soil not absolutely wet, but flourishes best in rather dry than moist sandy loam. Beckmann (Hist, of Invent., i. 193, 1846) says that the plant which first induced J. di Castro to search for alum in Italy was the holly, which is there still considered to indicate that its habitat is aluminiferous. The holly is propagated by means of the seeds, which do not normally germinate until their second year (see ARBORICULTURE, vol. ii. p. 322), by whip-grafting and budding, and by cuttings of the matured summer shoots, which, placed in sandy soil and kept under cover of a hand-glass in sheltered situations, generally strike root in spring. Transplantation should be performed in damp weather in September and October, or, according to some writers, in spring or on mild days in winter, and care should be taken that the roots are not dried by exposure to the air. It is rarely injured by frosts in Britain, where its foliage and bright red berries in winter render it a valuable ornamental tree. The yield of berries has been noticed to be less when a warm spring, following on a wet winter season, has promoted excess of growth. There are numerous varieties of the holly. Some trees have yellow, and others white or even black fruit. In the fruitless variety laurifolia, " the most floriferous of all hollies" (Hibberd), the flowers are highly fragrant; the form known as femina is, on the other hand, remarkable for the number of its berries. The leaves in the unarmed varieties aureo-marginata and albo-marginata are of great beauty, and in ferox they are studded with sharp prickles. The holly is of importance as a hedge-plant (see ARBOKICULTURE, vol. ii. p. 319), and is patient of clipping, which is best performed by the knife. Evelyn's holly hedge at Say's Court, Deptford, was 400 feet long, 9 feet high, and 5 feet in breadth. To form fences, for which Evelyn recommends the employ-ment of seedlings from woods, the plants should be 9 to 12 inches in height, with plenty of small fibrous roots, and require to be set 1 to 1J feet apart, in well-manured and weeded ground, and thoroughly watered.

The wood of the holly is even-grained and hard, espe-cially when from the heartwood of large trees, and almost as white as ivory, except near the centre of old trunks, where it is brownish. It is employed in inlaying and turn-ing, and, since it stains well, in the place of ebony, as for tea-pot handles. For engraving it is inferior to box. When dry it weighs about 47-| lb per cubic foot. From the bark of the holly bird-lime is manufactured. From the leaves are obtainable a colouring matter named ilixanthin, ilicic acid, and a bitter principle, ilicin, which has been variously described by different analytical chemists. The leaves have been used in rheumatism, and were at one time, on account of their taste, supposed to be of value in inter-mittent fever. A. Lonicerus (Kreuterb., Th. 1, p. xxxviii., Frankf., 1582, fol.) speaks of their decoction as a remedy for pain in the side. They are eaten by sheep and deer, and in parts of France serve as a winter fodder for cattle. The berries provoke in man violent emesis and catharsis, but are eaten with immunity by thrushes and other birds. The larvae of the moths Sphinx ligustri, L., and Phoxopteryx ncevana, Hb., have been met with on holly. The leaves are mined by the larva of a fly, Phytomyza ilicis, and both on them and the tops of the young twigs occurs the plant-louse Aphis ilicis, Kalt. (Kaltenbach, Pf/anzenfeinde, p, 427, 1874). The custom of employing holly and other plants for decorative purposes at Christmas is one of con-siderable antiquity, and has been regarded as a survival of the usages of the Boman Saturnalia, or of an old Teutonic practice of hanging the interior of dwellings with ever-greens as a refuge for sylvan spirits from the inclemency of winter. A Border proverb defines an habitual story-teller as one that " lees never but when the hollen is green." Several popular superstitions exist with respect to holly. In the county of Butland it is deemed unlucky to intro-duce it into a house before Christmas Eve. In some English rural districts the prickly and non-prickly kinds are distinguished as " he" and " she" holly; and in Derbyshire the tradition obtains that according as the holly brought at Christmas into a house is smooth or rough, the wife or the husband will be master. Holly that has adorned churches at that season are in Worcestershire and Herefordshire much esteemed and cherished, the possession of a small branch with berries being supposed to bring a lucky year; and Lonicerus (op. cit.) mentions a notion in his time vulgarly prevalent in Germany that consecrated twigs of the plant hung over a door are a protection against thunder.

Among the North American species of Ilex are /. opaca, Ait., which resembles the European tree, and the Inkberrj', /. (Prims) glabra, L., and the American Black Alder, or Winterberry, I. (Prinos) verticillata, L. Hooker (Fl. of Brit. India, i. 598,606) enumerates twenty-four Indian species of Ilex. The Japanese I. crenata, Thb., and/, latifolia, Thb., a remarkably hardy plant, and the North American I. Dahoon, Walt., are among the species cultivated in Britain. The leaves of several species of Ilex are used by dyers. The member of the genus most important economically is /. paraguayensis, St.-Hil., the prepared leaves of which con' stitute Paraguay tea, or MATE (q.v.). Knee Holly is the species Ruscns aculeatus, L.; Sea Holly, Eryngmm maritimum, L.; and the Mountain Holly of America, Nemopanth.es canadensis, D. C.
See, besides the above mentioned works, T. Forster, The Perennial Calendar, p. 726, 1824; Loudon, Arboretum, ii. 506, 1844; Dc Candolle, Ge'og. Botan., i. 1855; Lindley, Med. and CEconom. Bot.. p. 190, 2d ed., 1856; N. Paterson, The Manse Garden, pp. 17 seq., 1860; Syme, Sowerby's Eng. Bot., ii 219, 1864; Danvin, Origin of Species, p. 107, 5th ed., 1869, and Anim. and PL, i. 884, ii. 19, 230; Stille and Maisch. The National Dispensatory, p. 754, 2d ed., 1879 ; J. Britten and R. Holland, Diet, of Eng. Plant Names, pt. ii. pp. 253, 263-4, Eng. Dialect Soc, 1880; Notes and Queries, 2d ser., i. 335,398, 443, 502, iii. 344, 4th ser., Tiii. 506, x. 486, 492, xii. 467, 5th ser., xi. 206, ix. 67; and The Garden, xiii., xiv., 1878. (F. H. B.)


Hist. Plant., i. 9. 3, iii. 3. 1, and 4. 6, et passim. On the aquifolium or aquifolia of Latin authors, commonly regarded as the holly, see A. de Grandsagne, Hist. Nat. cle Pline, bk. xvi., "Notes," pp. 199, 206.
The term "holm," as indicative of a prevalence of holly, is stated to have entered into the names of several places in Britain. From its superficial resemblance to the holly, the tree Quercus Ilex, L., the evergreen oak, received the appellation of "holm-oak."
Skeat (Etymolog. Diet., 1879) with reference to the word holly remarks : "The form of the base KUL ( = Teutonic HUL) is probably connected with Lat. cuhnen, a peak, culmus, a stalk; perhaps because the leaves are 'pointed.' " Grimm (Dent. Wbrterb., Bd. iv.) suggests that the term Hülst, as the O.H.G. Hulis, applied to the butcher's broom, or knee-holly, in the earliest times used for hedges, may have reference to the holly as a protecting (hüllender) plant.

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