Plant of the Season - Winter 2019
Plant of the season: Ilex
With the start of meteorological winter on December 1 we’ve officially moved season now, through to February 29. Our chosen Plant of the Season for winter is Ilex, or holly, in all its beautiful forms. Although immediately thought of as the holly of Christmas cards and wreaths the species number around 480 varieties of evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs and climbers, wide-ranging from the tropics to temperate zones.
Hollies have leaves arranged alternately, generally glossy and often with spiny margins and in autumn and winter produce berries which technically are drupes, also named stone fruits, which are fruits of an outer fleshy part surrounding a single shell containing a seed. These are mildly toxic to humans but a great food source for birds. Best known are the reds but berries are also brown to black, and more rarely green or yellow.
The examples shown are Ilex aquifolium ‘Argentea Marginata’, Ilex crenata, Ilex dimorphophylla, Ilex xKoehneana & Ilex x wandoensis.
Interesting holly facts:-
• Druids wore holly in their hair as they believed if offered protection against evil spirits
• Holly is the plant badge of the Clan MacMillan
• Harry Potter’s wand was made from holly
• Head of Collections Charlotte tells us 18th century curtain rail pulley wheels were fashioned from holly for its hardness and durability
• In parts of western USA holly is classified as an invasive
• In heraldry, holly is used to symbolise truth
• Holly makes a good wildlife hedge as it provides shelter and habitat and is a caterpillar food plant