top of page

The Common Holly (Ilex aquifolium)

When I was growing up, I actually had a holly bush in my front yard. The bush in my front yard was the American version of this holly, Ilex opaca. Ilex aquifolium is the European version of this plant. Let's read more about this nostalgic and common holiday plant and see what else we can learn about the holly.

Physical Description and Behavior

While it is possible for the common holly to grow more than 10 meters (32 feet) tall, it is generally only seen to grow about 2-3 meters (7-10 feet). Wikipedia states that it can grow up to 25 meters (82 feet) but that it is unlikely. The holly is covered in light green in the fall before becoming darker green and super sharp in the colder late-fall and winter months.

Fun Fact: The berries of the holly are poisonous due to them containing the toxin Saponin. It would take 20-30 berries (which are super bitter) for an adult to get sick but is only about 5 for kids due to them being much smaller. This is why most cases of toxicity happen in small children. That said, the South American species of this plant: Ilex paraguariensi and Ilex guayusa are commonly used to brew into a tea.

The berries are only about 10 mm in diameter and are a bit more oval in shape. They are deep red in color and are ripe between October and November when small animals start to pick them off to eat or bury. Each fruit has 3-4 seeds which may take 2 or even 3 years before they start to germinate and grow.

Habitat and Location

The Common Holly grows throughout Europe. They are found in the UK, Sweden, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and even in some areas in North Africa.

They are considered to be of Least Concern according to the IUCN RedList. This is most likely due to the wide distribution of the plant because of its connection with holiday tradition.

You can learn a little more about this holly and more by watching the video below:

42 views0 comments


bottom of page