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Latin name: Ilex aquifolium

The European Holly that is native to Ireland is an evergreen tree. It is quite a small tree and doesn’t usually grow beyond one metre high, but is extremely important for birds and other wildlife in the winter.

The cluster of bright red berries of the holly tree are a great source of food for animals during the cold, frosty winters when the ground is too hard to search for food. Be careful not to eat any of these berries, as they are toxic and can make people very ill. The leaves of the holly tree also provide shelter for birds.

The holly tree produces a very hard, white wood. Did you know that it is used to make the white pieces for the game of chess? The black pieces are made from ebony.
Courtesy of Coillte Teoranta

Can you think of any other way that people use holly? In western culture, holly is often used to decorate homes over Christmas. Have you ever made a holly wreath for your front door? Remember to be very careful of the prickly leaves!

Long ago, the holly tree was considered one of the most sacred trees by the druids in Ireland. The evergreen holly was the ruler of the dark winter months, while the oak was the ruler of the lighter summer months.