Information on Holly

Common Name: Holly
Scientific Name: Ilex aquifolium
Irish Name: Cuileann
Family Group: Aquifoliaceae
Distribution: View Map (Courtesy of the BSBI)
Flowering Period

Click for list of all flowering by month
Holly is not easily confused with other wild plants on this web site.

This is a well-known small tree which is widespread throughout the country.  It has small white, four-petalled flowers (6-10mm) in clusters from May to July and these are followed in late autumn by the familiar bright scarlet berries.  Its evergreen, glossy leaves are stiff and leathery with spiny margins, the upper side being dark green, the lower side a paler green.  These leaves – together with those of Ivy – is the larval foodplant of the Holly Blue Butterfly.  Holly is a native plant belonging to the family Aquifoliaceae. 

I have been aware of Holly for as long as I can remember but only realised it had such a pretty little flower in 2008 at Laragh, Co Wicklow when I photographed it.  

If you are satisfied you have correctly identified this plant, please submit your sighting to the National Biodiversity Data Centre

In Christian symbolism, the prickly leaves were connected with the crown of thorns and the berries with Christ's drops of blood.   

In European folklore, Holly trees were traditionally seen as protection from lightning strikes and so were planted near houses.  Now science tells us that the spines on Holly leaves can act as miniature lightning conductors.   

Holly is most commonly associated with Christmastime and is still brought into the house as decoration.  However, when picking it, remember the birds need the berries too!

"Heigh ho! sing heigh ho! unto the green holly:
Most friendship is feigning, most loving mere folly:
Then, heigh ho, the holly!
This life is most jolly."

 'As You Like It' by William Shakespeare