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Holly
European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) leaves and fruit
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Angiosperms
Class: Eudicots
Order: Aquifoliales
Family: Aquifoliaceae
DC. ex A.Rich.
Genus: Ilex
L.
Species

About 600, see text

Holly (Ilex, pronounced /ˈaɪlɛks/)[1] is a genus of approximately 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family.

Contents

Description and ecology

Hollies (here, Ilex aquifolium) are dioecious: (above) shoot with flowers from male plant; (top right) male flower enlarged from female plant; (lower right) female flower enlarged, showing stamen and reduced, sterile stamens with no pollen.
A holly bush with a lone red berry in winter.

Holly berries are somewhat toxic and will cause vomiting and/or diarrhea when ingested by people, partly due to the ilicin content. The fatal dose is estimated to be around twenty berries for adults. However they are extremely important food for numerous species of birds, and also are eaten by other wild animals. In the fall and early winter the berries are hard and apparently unpalatable. After being frozen or frosted several times, the berries soften, and become milder in taste. During winter storms, birds often take refuge in hollies, which provide shelter, protection from predators (by the spiny leaves), and food. The flowers are sometimes eaten by the larva of the Double-striped Pug moth (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata). Other Lepidoptera whose larvae feed on holly include Bucculatrix ilecella (which feeds exclusively on hollies) and The Engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia). Holly is commonly referenced at Christmas time. Also see: wreath for information on how the holly plant is used in Christmas wreaths.

Having evolved numerous species that are endemic to islands and small mountain ranges, and being highly useful plants, many hollies are now becoming rare. Tropical species are especially often threatened by habitat destruction and overexploitation, and at least two have become extinct, with numerous others barely surviving.[2]

Selected species

Etymology

The origin of the word "holly" is Old English holegn, which is related to Old High German hulis. The French word for holly, houx, derives from the Old High German word hulis, huls, as do Low German/Low Franconian terms like Hülse or hulst. These Germanic words appear to be related to words for holly in Celtic languages, such as Welsh celyn, Breton kelen(n) and Irish cuilleann.

The botanical name ilex was the original Latin name for the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), which has similar foliage to common holly, and is occasionally confused with it. Several romance languages use the latin word acrifolium (turned into aquifolium in modern time), so Italian agrifoglio, Occitan grefuèlh, etc.

Uses

Trunk and leaves of a variegated holly bush.
A 'Highclere' holly variety.

In many western cultures, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration, used especially in wreaths. The wood is heavy, hard and whitish; one traditional use is for chess pieces, with holly for the white pieces, and ebony for the black. Other uses include turnery, inlay work and as firewood. Looms in the 1800s used holly for the spinning rod. Because holly is dense and can be sanded very smooth, the rod was less likely than other woods to snag threads being used to make cloth. Peter Carl Faberge used holly for cases for Faberge eggs as well as small objects such as hand seals.

Many of the hollies are widely used as ornamental plants in gardens and parks. Several hybrids and numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use, among them the very popular Ilex × altaclerensis (I. aquifolium × I. perado) and Ilex × meserveae (I. aquifolium × I. rugosa).[5] Hollies are often used for hedges; the spiny leaves make them difficult to penetrate, and they take well to pruning and shaping.[6] In Heraldry, holly is used to symbolise truth.

Between the thirteenth and eighteenth century, before the introduction of turnips, holly was cultivated for use as winter fodder for cattle and sheep.[7] Less spiny varieties of holly were preferred, and in practice the leaves growing near the top of the tree have far fewer spines making them more suitable for fodder.

Several holly species are used to make caffeine-rich herbal teas. The South American Yerba Mate (I. paraguariensis) is boiled for the popular revigorating drinks Mate, and Chimarrão, and steeped in water for the cold Tereré. Guayusa (I. guayusa) is used both as a stimulant and as an admixture to the entheogenic tea ayahuasca; its leaves have the highest known caffeine content of any plant. In North and Central America, Yaupon (I. vomitoria), was used by southeastern Native Americans as a ceremonial stimulant and emetic known as "the black drink"[8]. As the name suggests, the tea's purgative properties were one of its main uses, most often ritually. Gallberry (Appalachian Tea, I. glabra) is a milder substitute for Yaupon and does not have caffeine. In China, the young leaf buds of I. kudingcha are processed in a method similar to green tea to make a tisane called kǔdīng chá (苦丁茶, roughly "bitter spikeleaf tea").

References

  1. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  2. ^ International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) (2007): 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: Ilex
  3. ^ Little Jr., Elbert L.; Roger G. Skolmen (1989) (PDF). Kāwaʻu, Hawaiian holly. United States Forest Service. http://www.ctahr.hawaii.edu/forestry/data/CommonTreesHI/CFT_Ilex_anomala.pdf. 
  4. ^ Ulloa Ulloa & Jørgensen (1993), eFloras.org (2007a, b), IUCN (2007), RBGE (2007), USDA (2007a, b)
  5. ^ Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  6. ^ Northumbria Police: Security starts at the Garden Gate
  7. ^ Spray, M. (1981). Holly as a Fodder in England. Agricultural History Review 29 (2): 97. Available online (pdf file). British Agricultural History Society.
  8. ^ Cherokee: Gvnega adatasti (ᎬᏁᎦ ᎠᏓᏔᏍᏘ), Asi (ᎠᏏ).

Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

Translingual

Ilex paraguariensis

Etymology

Latin ilex (holm oak)

Proper noun

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Wikipedia

Ilex

  1. (taxonomy) A taxonomic genus within the family Aquifoliaceae — the hollies.
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Wikispecies has information on:

Wikispecies

See also

  • See Wikispecies for the many species
  • Quercis ilex - the holm oak

Wikispecies

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Ilex may mean:

In the Regnum Plantae:








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