"Ilex" redirects here. For other uses, see Ilex (disambiguation).This article is about the plant. For other uses, see Holly (disambiguation).Holly European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) leaves and fruit Scientific classification Kingdom: Plantae Division: Angiosperms Class: Eudicots Order: Aquifoliales Family: Aquifoliaceae, DC. ex A.Rich. Genus: Ilex, L. Species About 600, see text Holly (Ilex, pronounced /ˈaɪlɛks/) is a genus of approximately 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. Description and ecology, Holly berries are somewhat toxic to humans, though their poisonous properties are overstated and fatalities almost unknown. They are extremely important food for numerous species of birds, and also are eaten by other wild animals. In the fall and early winter the berries are hard and apparently unpalatable. After being frozen or frosted several times, the berries soften, and become milder in taste. During winter storms, birds often take refuge in hollies, which provide shelter, protection from predators (by the spiny leaves), and food. The flowers are sometimes eaten by the larva of the Double-striped Pug moth (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata). Other Lepidoptera whose larvae feed on holly include Bucculatrix ilecella (which feeds exclusively on hollies) and The Engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia). Holly is commonly referenced at Christmas time. Having evolved numerous species that are endemic to islands and small mountain ranges, and being highly useful plants, many hollies are now becoming rare. Tropical species are especially often threatened by habitat destruction and overexploitation, and at least two have become extinct, with numerous others barely surviving. Etymology, The origin of the word "holly" is Old English holegn , which is related to Old High German hulis. The French word for holly, houx, derives from the Old High German word hulis, huls , as do Low German/Low Franconian terms like Hülse or hulst. These Germanic words appear to be related to words for holly in Celtic languages, such as Welsh celyn, Breton kelen(n) and Irish cuileann. The botanical name ilex was the original Latin name for the Holm Oak (Quercus ilex), which has similar foliage to common holly, and is occasionally confused with it. Several romance languages use the Latin word acrifolium (turned into aquifolium in modern time), so Italian agrifoglio, Occitan grefuèlh, etc. Uses, In many western cultures, holly is a traditional Christmas decoration, used especially in wreaths. The wood is heavy, hard and whitish; one traditional use is for chess pieces, with holly for the white pieces, and ebony for the black. Other uses include turnery, inlay work and as firewood. Looms in the 1800s used holly for the spinning rod. Because holly is dense and can be sanded very smooth, the rod was less likely than other woods to snag threads being used to make cloth. Peter Carl Faberge used holly for cases for Faberge eggs as well as small objects such as hand seals. Many of the hollies are widely used as ornamental plants in gardens and parks. Several hybrids and numerous cultivars have been developed for garden use, among them the very popular "Highclere hollies", Ilex × altaclerensis (I. aquifolium × I. perado) and the "blue hollies", Ilex × meserveae (I. aquifolium × I. rugosa). Hollies are often used for hedges; the spiny leaves make them difficult to penetrate, and they take well to pruning and shaping. In heraldry, holly is used to symbolise truth. Between the thirteenth and eighteenth century, before the introduction of turnips, holly was cultivated for use as winter fodder for cattle and sheep. Less spiny varieties of holly were preferred, and in practice the leaves growing near the top of the tree have far fewer spines making them more suitable for fodder. Several holly species are used to make caffeine-rich herbal teas. The South American Yerba Mate (I. paraguariensis) is boiled for the popular revigorating drinks Mate, and Chimarrão, and steeped in water for the cold Tereré. Guayusa (I. guayusa) is used both as a stimulant and as an admixture to the entheogenic tea ayahuasca; its leaves have the highest known caffeine content of any plant. In North and Central America, Yaupon (I. vomitoria), was used by southeastern Native Americans as a ceremonial stimulant and emetic known as "the black drink". As the name suggests, the tea's purgative properties were one of its main uses, most often ritually. Gallberry (Appalachian Tea, I. glabra) is a milder substitute for Yaupon and does not have caffeine. In China, the young leaf buds of I. kudingcha are processed in a method similar to green tea to make a tisane called kǔdīng chá (苦丁茶, roughly "bitter spikeleaf tea"). Selected species, Ilex abscondita, Ilex acutidenticulata, Ilex affinis, Ilex × altaclarensis, Ilex altiplana, Ilex amara - Caachira, Ilex ambigua - Sand Holly, Ilex amelanchier - Swamp Holly, Ilex anomala Hook. & Arn. - Kāwaʻu (Hawaiʻi), Ilex anonoides, Ilex aquifolium - European Holly, English Holly, Christ's Thorn, Ilex aracamuniana, Ilex argentina, Ilex arisanensis, Ilex bioritsensis, Ilex brachyphylla, Ilex brasiliensis, Ilex brevicuspis, Ilex brevipedicellata, Ilex buergeri, Ilex canariensis - Small-leaved Holly, Acebino, Ilex caniensis, Ilex cassine - Dahoon Holly, Cassena, Ilex centrochinensis, Ilex cerasifolia, Ilex chamædryfolia, Ilex chapaensis, Ilex chengkouensis, Ilex chinensis, Ilex chuniana, Ilex ciliolata, Ilex ciliospinosa, Ilex cognata, Ilex colchica, Ilex collina, Ilex conocarpa, Ilex cookii - Cook's Holly (Puerto Rico), Ilex corallina, Ilex coriacea - Gallberry, Ilex cornuta - Chinese Holly, Horned Holly, Ilex costaricensis, Ilex cowanii, Ilex crenata - Japanese Holly, Box-leaved Holly, inutsuge (Japanese), Ilex crepitans, Ilex cyrtura, Ilex dabieshanensis, Ilex davidsei, Ilex decidua Walter - Possumhaw (Eastern United States, Northeastern Mexico), Ilex dehongensis, Ilex dimorphophylla, Ilex diospyroides, Ilex dipyrena - Himalayan Holly, Ilex dumosa, Ilex ericoides, Ilex euryoides, Ilex fargesii, Ilex fengqingensis, Ilex fertilis, Ilex florifera, Ilex gardneriana (extinct: 20th century?), Ilex geniculata, Ilex georgei, Ilex gigantea, Ilex glabella, Ilex glabra L. A.Gray - Evergreen Winterberry, Bitter Gallberry, Inkberry (Eastern North America), Ilex gleasoniana, Ilex goshiensis, Ilex graciliflora, Ilex grandiflora, Ilex guaiquinimae, Ilex guayusa - Guayusa, Ilex guianensis, Ilex harrisii, Ilex holstii, Ilex huachamacariana, Ilex humboldtiana, Ilex ignicola, Ilex illustris, Ilex integerrima, Ilex integra - Mochi Tree, Nepal Holly, Ilex intricata, Ilex jamaicana Proctor (Jamaica), Ilex jauaensis, Ilex jelskii, Ilex karuaiana, Ilex khasiana, Ilex kingiana, Ilex kudingcha, Ilex kusanoi, Ilex lævigata - Smooth Winterberry, Ilex lasseri, Ilex latifolia - Tarajo Holly, tarayō (Japanese), Ilex lechleri, Ilex leucoclada, Ilex longipes, Ilex longzhouensis, Ilex machilifolia, Ilex maclurei, Ilex macoucoua, Ilex macrocarpa, Ilex macropoda, Ilex magnifructa, Ilex maingayi, Ilex marahuacae, Ilex marginata, Ilex margratesavage, Ilex mathewsii, Ilex × meserveae, Ilex microdonta, Ilex mitis, Ilex montana Torrey & A.Gray - Mountain Winterberry (Eastern United States), Ilex mucronata (L.) M.Powell, Savol., & S.Andrews - Mountain Holly, Catberry (Eastern North America), Ilex myrtifolia - Myrtle Holly, Myrtle Dahoon, Ilex neblinensis, Ilex nothofagifolia, Ilex oblonga, Ilex occulta, Ilex opaca - American Holly (Eastern United States), Ilex ovalifolia, Ilex palawanica, Ilex pallida, Ilex paraguariensis - Maté, yerba maté, erva-mate (Portuguese), Ilex parvifructa, Ilex patens, Ilex pauciflora, Ilex paujiensis, Ilex pedunculosa - Longstalked holly, Ilex peiradena, Ilex perado - Madeiran Holly, Ilex perlata, Ilex pernyi - Perny's Holly, Ilex polita, Ilex praetermissa, Ilex pringlei, Ilex pseudobuxus, Ilex puberula, Ilex pubescens, Ilex pubiflora, Ilex purpurea, Ilex qianlingshanensis, Ilex quercetorum, Ilex quercifolia, Ilex rarasanensis, Ilex reticulata, Ilex rotunda, Ilex rugosa, Ilex sclerophylla, Ilex serrata - Japanese Winterberry, Ilex sessilifructa, Ilex shimeica, Ilex sikkimensis, Ilex sintenisii (Urban) Britt. - Sintenis' Holly (Puerto Rico), Ilex sipapoana, Ilex socorroensis, Ilex spinigera, Ilex spruceana, Ilex steyermarkii, Ilex subrotundifolia, Ilex subtriflora, Ilex sugerokii, Ilex sulcata, Ilex syzygiophylla, Ilex tahanensis, Ilex tateana, Ilex taubertiana, Ilex ternatiflora (extinct: 20th century?), Ilex theezans, Ilex tiricae, Ilex tolucana, Ilex trachyphylla, Ilex trichocarpa, Ilex tugitakayamensis, Ilex uraiensis, Ilex vaccinoides, Ilex venezuelensis, Ilex venulosa, Ilex verticillata (L.) A.Gray American Winterberry (Eastern North America), Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon Holly, casseena (Spanish), Ilex vulcanicola, Ilex wenchowensis, Ilex williamsii, Ilex wilsonii, Ilex yunnanensis, Ilex wugonshanensis, Ilex yuiana, Gallery, Ilex anomala , Ilex chinensis , Ilex pedunculosa , Ilex rotunda , Ilex verticillata , Ilex yunnanensis , A contorted hedgehog holly. , Ilex anomala , Ilex chinensis , Ilex pedunculosa , Ilex rotunda , Ilex yunnanensis