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HOLLY (Ilex Aquifolium)

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Originally appearing in Volume V13, Page 615 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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HOLLY (Ilex Aquifolium), the European representative of a large genus of trees and shrubs of the natural order Ilicineae, containing about 170 species. The genus finds its chief development in Central and South America; is well developed in Asia, especially the Chinese-Japanese area, and has but few species in Europe, Africa and Australia. In Europe, where I. Aquifolium is the sole surviving species, the genus was richly represented during the Miocene period by forms at first South American and Asiatic, and later North American in type (Schimper, Paleont. viget. iii. 204, 1874). The leaves are generally leathery and evergreen, and are alternate and stalked; the flowers are commonly dioecious, are in axillary cymes, fascicles or umbellules, and have a persistent four- to five-lobed calyx, a white, rotate four- or rarely five- or six-cleft corolla, with the four or five stamens adherent to its base in the male, sometimes hypogynous in the female flowers, and a two- to twelve-celled ovary; the fruit is a globose, very seldom ovoid, and usually red drupe, containing two to sixteen one-seeded stones. The common holly, or Hulver (apparently the Ki7XavTpos of Theophrastus; 3 Ang.-Sax. holen or holegn; Mid. Eng. holyn or holin, whence holm and holmtree; 4 Welsh, celyn; Ger. Stechpalme, Hulse, Hulst; O. Fr. houx; and Fr. houlx),5 I. A quifolium, is an evergreen shrub or low tree, having smooth, ash-coloured bark, and wavy, pointed, smooth and glossy leaves, 2 to 3 in. long, with a spinous margin, raised and cartilaginous below, or, as commonly on the upper branches of the older trees, entire 3 Hist. Plant. i. 9. 3, iii. 3. i, and 4. 6, et passim. On the aquifolium or aquifolia of Latin authors, commonly regarded as.- the holly, see A. de Grandsagne, Hist. Nat. de Pline, bk. xvi., " Note"s," pp. 199, 206. 4 The term " holm," as indicative of a prevalence of holly, is stated to have entered into the names of several places in Britain. From its'superficial resemblance to the holly, the tree Quercus Ilex, the evergreen oak, received the appellation of " holm-oak." Skeat (Etymolog. Dict., 1879) with reference to the word holly remarks: " The form of the base Kul. (=Teutonic Hun) is probably connected with Lat. culmen, a peak, culmus, a stalk; perhaps because the leaves are 'pointed.' " Grimm (Deut. WOrterb. Bd. iv.) suggests that the term Hulst, as the O.H.G. Hulis, applied to the butcher's broom, or knee-holly, in the earliest times used for hedges, may have reference to the holly as a protecting (hilllender) plant. —a peculiarity alluded to by Southey in his poem The Holly Tree. The flowers, which appear in May, are ordinarily dioecious, as in all the best of the cultivated varieties in nurseries (Gard. Chron., 1877, i. 149). Darwin (Duff. Forms of Flow., 1877, p. 297) says of the holly: " During several years I have examined many plants, but have never found one that was really hermaphrodite." Shirley Hibberd, however (Gard. Chron., 1877, ii. 777), mentions the occurrence of " flowers bearing globose anthers well furnished with pollen, and also perfect ovaries. " In his opinion, I. Aquifolium changes its sex from male to female with age. In the female flowers the stamens are destitute of pollen, though but slightly or not at all shorter than in the male flowers; the latter are more numerous than the female, and have a smaller ovary and a larger corolla, to which the filaments adhere for a greater length. The corolla in male plants falls off entire, whereas in fruit-bearers it is broken into separate 1. Flower with abortive stamens. 4. Fruit. 2. Flower with abortive pistil. 5. Fruit cut transversely 3. Floral diagram showing arrangement showing the four of parts in horizontal section. one-seeded stones. segments by the swelling of the young ovary. The holly occurs in Britain, north-east Scotland excepted, and in western and southern Europe, from as high as 62° N. lat. in Norway to Turkey and the Caucasus and in western Asia. It is found generally in forest glades or in hedges, and does not flourish under the shade of other trees. In England it is usually small, probably on account of its destruction for timber, but it may attain to 6o or 70 ft, in height, and Loudon mentions one tree at Claremont, in Surrey, of 8o ft. Some of the trees on Bleak Hill, Shropshire, are asserted to be 14 ft. in girth at some distance from the ground(N. and Q., 5th ser., xii. 5o8). The holly is abundant in France, especially in Brittany. It will grow in almost any soil not absolutely wet, but flourishes best in rather dry than moist sandy loam. Beckmann (Hist. of Invent., 1846, i. 193) says that the plant which first induced J. di Castro to search for alum in Italy was the holly, which is there still considered to indicate that its habitat is aluminiferous. The holly is propagated by means of the seeds, which do not normally germinate until their second year, by whip-grafting and budding, and by cuttings of the matured summer shoots, which, placed in sandy soil and kept under cover of a hand-glass in sheltered situations, generally strike root in spring. Transplantation should be performed in damp weather in September and October, or, according to some writers, in spring or on mild days in winter, and care should be taken that the roots are not dried by exposure to the air. It is rarely injured by frosts in Britain, where its foliage and bright red berries in winter render it a valuable ornamental tree. The yield of berries has been noticed to be less when a warm spring, following on a wet winter season, has promoted excess of growth. There are numerous varieties of the holly. Some trees have yellow, and others white or even black fruit. In the fruitless variety laurifolia, " the most floriferous of all hollies " (Hibberd), the flowers are highly fragrant; the form known as femina is, on the other hand, remarkable for the number of its berries. The leaves in the unarmed varieties aureo-marginata and albomarginata are of great beauty, and in ferox they are studded with sharp prickles. The holly is of importance as a hedge-plant, and is patient of clipping, which is best performed by the knife. Evelyn's holly hedge at Say's Court, Deptford, was 400 ft. long, 9 ft. high and 5 ft. in breadth. To form fences, for which Evelyn recommends the employment of seedlings from woods, the plants should be 9 to 12 in. in height, with plenty of small fibrous roots, and require to be set x to 11 ft. apart, in wellmanured and weeded ground and thoroughly watered. The wood of the holly is even-grained and hard, especially when from the heartwood of large trees, and almost as white as ivory, except near the centre of old trunks, where it is brownish. It is employed in inlaying and turning, and, since it stains well, in the place of ebony, as for teapot handles. For engraving it is inferior to box. When dry it weighs about 471 lb. per cub. ft. From the bark of the holly bird-lime is manufactured. From the leaves are obtainable a colouring matter named ilixanthin, ilicic acid, and a bitter principle, ilicin, which has been variously described by different analytical chemists. They are eaten by sheep and deer, and in parts of France serve as a winter fodder for cattle. The berries provoke in man violent vomiting and purging, but are eaten with immunity by thrushes and other birds. The larvae of the moths Sphinx ligustri and Phoxopteryx naevana have been met with on holly. The leaves are mined by the larva of a fly, Phytomyza and both on them and the tops of the young twigs occurs the plant-louse Aphis ilicis (Kaltenbach, Pflanzenfeinde, 1874, p. 427). The custom of employing holly and other plants for decorative purposes at Christmas is one of considerable antiquity, and has been regarded as a survival of the usages of the Roman Saturnalia, or of an old Teutonic practice of hanging the interior of dwellings with ever-greens as a refuge for sylvan spirits from the inclemency of winter. A Border proverb defines an habitual story-teller as one that " lees never but when the hollen is green." Several popular superstitions exist with respect to holly. In the county of Rutland it is deemed unlucky to introduce it into a house before Christmas Eve. In some English rural districts the prickly and non-prickly kinds are distinguished as " he " and " she " holly; and in Derbyshire the tradition obtains that according as the holly brought at Christmas into a house is smooth or rough, the wife or the husband will be master. Holly that has adorned churches at that season is in Worcestershire and Herefordshire much esteemed and cherished, the possession of a small branch with berries being supposed to bring a lucky year; and Lonicerus mentions a notion in his time vulgarly prevalent in Germany that consecrated twigs of the plant hung over a door are a protection against thunder. Among the North American species of Ilex are I. opaca, which resembles the European tree, the Inkberry, I. (Prinos) glabra, and the American Black Alder, or Winterberry, I. (Prinos) verticillata. Hooker (Fl. of Brit. India, i. 598, 606) enumerates twenty-four Indian species of Ilex. The Japanese I. crenata, and I. latifolia, a remark-ably hardy plant, and the North American I. Cassine, are among the species cultivated in Britain. The leaves of several species of Ilex are used by dyers. The member of the genus most important economically is I. paraguariensis, the prepared leaves of which constitute Paraguay tea, or MATE (q.v.). Knee holly is Ruscus aculeatus, or butcher's broom (see BaooM); sea holly, Eryngium maritimum, an umbelliferous plant; and the mountain holly of America, Nemopanthes canadensis, also a member of the order Ilicineae. Besides the works above mentioned, see Louden, Arboretum, ii. 506 (1844).
End of Article: HOLLY (Ilex Aquifolium)
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