This section is from the book "Wayside And Woodland Blossoms", by Edward Step. Also available from Amazon: Wayside And Woodland Blossoms: A Guide To British Wild-Flowers.
The popular knowledge of the Holly has been gained chiefly about Christmas-tide, when its brightly varnished yet repellent leaves and its brilliant berries are much sought for household decoration. To most persons the flower is unknown; yet if they sought the holly in the woods or hedges any time from May to August they would probably find the white flowers produced in "umbellate cymes" from the axils of the leaves. The calyx is slightly downy, with four or five divisions. The petals are four in number, white, conjoined at their bases, or entirely separate. The stamens are four, one attached to the base of each petal; stigmas also four, attached to the ovary, without intervening styles. The fruit, with which we are all so familiar by sight, is technically a drupe, in which category are also placed the cherry and the plum, fruits which have the seed enclosed in a hard "stone" (or endocarp), surrounded by a fleshy pericarp. The holly-berries, as the fruits are called (though they in no wise resemble the gooseberry, which is a true berry), contain four of such stones. This is the only British species.
The name Ilex is said to be of Celtic origin, and derived from ec or ac, a sharp point, but this appears to us very unsatisfactory. Its old English name was holm, a word that has become fixed in some of our place-names for localities where holly is still abundant: such as Holmesdale, Holmwood, and Holmbury, all in Surrey.
If the smooth grey bark of old hollies be scrutinized closely one may find upon it a number of raised black cuneiform marks, not unlike the characters of the Chinese alphabet. They are really the fruits of a lichen, Graphis elegans. With care the piece of bark containing these curious marks may be cut out without defacing or injuring them.
Holly. Ilex aquifolium.
- Ilicineae. -