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Autumn | Holly


Meet Holly a tree most easily recognised by its green prickly leaves and scarlet berries - known especially for its deep green spikey leaves that stay on the tree all year round, even during the deepest winter. 

You might know some of her other names such as winterberry, christmas holly, ink berry or Ilex aquifolium



This video at the bottom of this page is also available to watch on YouTube and Vimeo.

The Holly tree is perhaps most easily recognised

by its prickly leaves and scarlet berries.

The leaves are thick and glossy green

and stay on the tree all year round, even during the deepest winter

They are also very often, though not always, edged with prickles.

These prickles are arranged alternately,

upwards then downwards, along the leaf.

Holly trees are either male or female,

with only the female tree bearing the berries.

These berries are completely toxic to humans,

causing vomiting and diarrhoea,

even though birds can be seen eating them with no harm.

Since ancient times, holly's persistent living foliage has been seen

as an emblem of hope and life when all else appears to have died

- one reason why it was brought into homes for the religious winter ceremonies.

The leaves have no taste or odour

although they have been dried and used

as tea in some parts of the world.

The leaves contain caffeine

and so holly leaf tea has been used as a gentle pick-me-up.

It's main medicinal use in the past was in the treatment of fevers

a decoction made of the leaves helped people to sweat, thereby breaking a fever

and was even used successfully to treat the fever of smallpox and malaria when Cinchona bark (the basis of quinine) failed.

The leaves can be used fresh at almost any time of the year

Or can be harvested in late spring,

and dried for later use.

To make one cup of fresh holly leaf tea,

pick a small handful of holly leaves using scissors or gloves to protect your hands if you need to.

Add to them a pot with 2 cups of water

and bring to the boil.

Simmer gently for 10 minutes,

strain and drink while warm.