Holly Tree Identification

The Holly Ilex aquifolium is native to Europe and West Asia. It is an evergreen tree or shrub. It is very common in woods and hedgerows and even grows on open hillsides and rocky mountain slopes. It has been widely planted in churchyards and gardens. It is often found growing in the deep shade of oak and beech woodlands. The evergreen leaves are glossy and spiny. The flowers open in spring and the red fruit ‘berries’ are green in July but ripe by October. The ‘berries’ are eaten by birds in winter. There are many ‘cultivated varieties’ for sale. They differ in leaf shape and colour and are popular as evergreen ornamental plants.

Holly Tree Identification – eight photos of the full tree, leaves, bark, female and male flowers and green and red fruit.

Mature tree growing in the open on a hillside in The Chilterns

Leaves have a glossy, dark green upper surface. The number of spines varies. The underside is light green.

A two-coloured leaf of a cultivated variety of Holly called ‘Argentea Marginata’. Technically the leaf is called ‘variegated’ which just means it has patches of two or more colours on its leaves or flowers.

The bark is smooth and grey.

Holly trees are  dioecious (two houses) and so some trees have male flowers and others female flowers. These are female flowers and are open in mid-May. Each flower has 4 petals and in the centre a green ovary. The 4 white anthers are non-functional.

These flowers are male.  You can tell male flowers by their 4 yellow anthers which are ready to release pollen to be collected by bees and transported to female trees. These trees will not produced berries. 

The fruit is green in July.

The fruit is red by October. Technically they are drupes not berries. Each drupe contains 3 or more stones. They are slightly toxic to humans. Some cultivars have yellow berries.