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Ilex aquifolium (common holly)

Well-known as a festive winter decoration, common holly is one of Britain's few native evergreen trees.
Photo of Ilex aquifolium

Common holly (Ilex aquifolium) (Photo: Wolfgang Stuppy)

Species information

Scientific name: 

Ilex aquifolium L.

Common name: 

common holly, English holly, European holly, holme, hollin

Conservation status: 

Common and widespread; not considered to be of conservation concern.


Woodland and hedgerows.

Key Uses: 

Cultivated as an ornamental. Used for festive decorations, hedging, firewood, woodwork and as a winter feed for sheep.

Known hazards: 

The berries are mildly toxic to humans and will cause vomiting and diarrhoea if eaten. It is best to wear gloves when pruning holly to protect against the prickly leaves.


Genus: Ilex

About this species

Common holly, Ilex aquifolium, is the most widely grown holly in British gardens but there are 500 to 600 other species worldwide. Common holly is a hardy tree or shrub, capable of surviving in most conditions, except where it is extremely wet. Its distinctive spiny leaves deter grazing animals and protect birds from predators as they feed on its bright red berries. It is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants.

The white flowers appear in May and pollination is generally performed by bees and other insects. The berries develop on female plants by late November. 'Holm' is an old name for holly and is seen in place names such as Holmwood and Holmsdale.


Aquifolium ilex


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