The Holly is well distributed throughout the
British Islands, ascending to a thousand feet,
and it is probable that no other tree is so well
It must be regarded as one of our small trees,
although some specimens attain a height of forty
or fifty feet, with a girth of ten or twelve feet.
The bark of the Holly is smooth and pale grey
in colour. The leaves are oval in shape, of a
leathery consistence, with a firmer margin, running
out into long sharp spines. It is a fact worthy
of note that when the Holly has attained to a
height of ten feet or so, it frequently clothes
its upper branches in leaves that have no spines.
No doubt, in the early history of the holly, cattle
found out its good qualities as food, and browsed
upon the then unarmed foliage. in self-defence
the tree developed spines upon its leaves, and
so kept its enemies at a distance. Above the reach
of these marauders the production of spines would
be a useless waste of material.
The small white flowers of the Holly are about
a quarter of an inch across, with four petals
and four to six stamens or two to four stigmas.
Sometimes flowers with stamens are produced by
the same tree that bears flowers with stigmas;
but usually the male and female flowers are borne
by separate trees, so the possessor of a Holly
that is solely male is puzzled by the fact that
his tree, though covered with blossom, never produces
The fruit is similar in structure to that of the
Plum and Cherry and is termed a drupe; but instead
of the single stone of these fruits, in the Holly-berry
there are two or more bony little stones, each
with its contained seed. The berries ripen about
September, and are then scarlet and glossy.
The wood of the Holly has an exceedingly fine
grain, and is very hard and white, used often
as a substitute for Box-wood, and, when dyed black,
in lieu of Ebony.