Holly – Ilex aquifolium

Holly tree

I live in a small town, Greenwood. It received its name because at one time the woods surrounding the town were filled with Holly as the understorey trees and shrubs. Today I often see areas where the Holly is still in the understorey, dark green all year long! This spring we found several small hollies struggling to survive in the back portion of our acre. They must have been brought here from over flying birds!

The Holly tree, a tree of myth, a tree sacred to the Witches of old, and still held in great esteem. The ancient Romans used holly in the Saturnalia festivals in winter. The Christians, in attempting to subjugate the pagan belief systems, made Christ’s birth celebration in December and used holly in decorating, first to blend in and later to convince the people they really were not that different! You know the song… ‘Deck the halls with boughs of holly!’

Holly leaves were used in the old herbal practices for lung issues such as catarrh (mucous production in the head), bronchitis, pneumonia, influenza, pleurisy, and smallpox. The berries were not so kind to the body, they cause violent vomiting, and so great care has to be exerted in their use.

The only food use I could find referenced, was the use of the leaves of the Holly in the Black Forest as a substitute for tea. During the American Civil War it was a very popular tea substitute in the South.

Holly Flowers

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