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Holly is a Seasonal Favorite at Buckhorn Inn

Have you admired the holly bushes on the Buckhorn Inn Nature Trail?  We have two American specimens of this beautiful evergreen.  

The thick green leaves and bright red berries make holly a popular winter decoration.

Many different types of birds feed on bitter holly berries.

The thick, spiny leaves provide color in the landscape year round.  And wildlife, including many different bird species, feed on the bright red berries.  Interestingly, the berries are hard and inedible during the fall and early winter months.  It takes several frosts, or freezes, for the fruit to become softer.

Symbolism of Holly

To the ancient Druids, the leaves  offered protection against evil spirts.  In those days holly was often worn, sometimes as a wreath around the head.  It was viewed as being a sacred plant because it remained green all winter.

In some traditions of Wicca, the Holly King is one of the faces of the Sun God.  He was born at midsummer and rules from the autumnal equinox to the vernal equinox.

In the Christian faith, the sharp leaves harken to the crown of thorns worn by Jesus and the red berries symbolize drops of his blood.  

The evergreen is often used in decorations for the Chinese New Year.

Growing Holly

Whether evergreen or deciduous, the plant prefers a moist location, and partial to full shade.  It grows well planted under, or around, large trees.  This plant can grow up to 50 feet in height, if not kept pruned to size.  Therefore it can be grown as a tree, bush, or hedge.  Both male and female plants of American holly are necessary to produce the bright red berries.  It begins to produce small white spring flowers and then berries when the plant is four to five years old.  You can find a wealth of information on growing this favorite from the Holly Society of America http://www.hollysocam.org

You can cut your own branches to fashion wreaths and centerpieces.  Just be sure to wear protective gloves when working with holly–the leaves are sharp!