Ilex x altaclerensis (Holly)

Hi there! I am the Highclere holly and for over 60 years, I have lived by the Embankment Gates of Chelsea Physic Garden. Formally, I am known as Ilex x altaclerensis. I am known for my glossy evergreen leaves and bright berries. Many people think of holly as having leaves with prickly spines. The truth is, certain species of holly, younger holly trees, and leaves lower to the ground are more likely to have prickly leaves – these sharp spines help to protect them from goats and deer who like to nibble on our leaves. Other hollies or the upper part of holly trees can have perfectly smooth oval leaves.  

My dense leaves shelter birds and hedgehogs from the harsh winds. In the spring, my flowers provide nectar for pollinators and my leaves feed caterpillars. In wintertime, my berries feed birds and mice when other food is scarce.  

The wood of holly is a strong material that is used for furniture, engravings, walking sticks, and firewood. My branches are also excellent for wreath making. But don’t cut me down! Luckily for me, it is said to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.