How long do holly trees live?

American Holly Trees for Sale Online

The pride of the native hollies, this very deer resistant holly has been overshadowed in recent years by more advertised cultivars, although the popularity of the plant remains strong. This pyramidal tree keeps its vibrant fruit through the winter when the red of the berries contrasts against the green foliage and is a striking specimen all year. This Native Holly, provides winter interest, easy to grow, adaptable to many soil types.

American Holly Trees as a Privacy Screen

The ever popular American Holly Trees are hardy to Zone 6. It is a pyramidal tree, which can reach up to 20 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide at the base which makes it good for tall screen. Give American Holly trees ample room, to allow for symmetry of growth. It grows well in a variety of soils, but prefers good drainage. The American Holly tree is great if you need to create privacy for your home. It’s a medium growing tree growing around 1 to 2 feet per year where its happy. We recommend planting American Holly Trees in a line with about 5 feet apart from each other to create quick privacy, however they can be planted at 10 to 12 foot intervals if you don’t mind waiting a bit for privacy. When planting alone the tree takes on a pyramidal shape and can be grown as a specimen tree to break sight-lines. Double row plantings of American Holly Tree are a great way to not only create privacy but to reduce noise from a busy roadway adjacent to your property for example. American Holly trees also make a wonderful backdrop for planting beds the pleasing evergreen dark color makes flowering plants really standout especially in the winter when it has its bright red berries.

American Holly Trees as a Formal Hedge

American Holly Trees are widely used as a quick growing formal hedge. Plant 4 to 8 feet apart, depending upon your desired results. Trim when needed but we do suggest waiting until after the initial flush of soft spring growth however it can be pruned in late winter before the onset of new growth. If it is pruned every year, American Holly Treeswill create a formal dark-green evergreen screen or box-shaped hedge, similar to a Yew hedge. American Holly can be kept to any height as long as you trim it once or twice a year.

Use American Holly Tree to add Vertical Elements to the Garden

American Holly Tree can also be planted in clusters in corners of the garden or to hide smaller permanent fixtures in the garden such as well caps or utility boxes. Clusters can be used at the ends of shrub borders or even in the middle to bring symmetry or vertical elements into the garden. Shrub borders tend to be a uniform in height but by adding clusters of larger evergreen trees you bring variations in height as well as a sense of permanence to the garden.

Soil Types for American Holly Trees

American Holly trees grow well in a wide range of soils, ranging from all sand to pure red clay. When planting in very sandy soils adding organic matter is always recommended to improve the soils ability to hold water and nutrients. When planting in hard clay soils, its best to dig the hole several feet wider than the root system and fill with soft loam soil to give the young American Holly tree a faster, more aggressive root system. American Holly prefer well drained soils but will tolerate wet soils for short periods of time. American Holly Tree should never be planted in soils that are excessively wet for long periods of time. Since American Holly have a relativley shallow root system, weeds and grass growing around the tree will cause the tree to grow much slower until established. Mulching will improve your growth three fold. Mulch not only stops weeds and grass, it will hold soil moisture and maintain a lower more even soil temperature, stimulating more aggressive root growth.

History and Folklore of the American Holly Tree

American Holly Tree wood has been used to make furniture, canes and scroll work. The wood has also been stained black and substituted for ebony in inlay work. American Holly wood is ideal for taking dyes, and is used for much of the black and white inlaid lines in musical instruments and furniture. It is also used for knife handles and black piano keys. American holly is the state tree of Delaware. A great deal of superstition once surrounded holly. It was believed that planting hollies near buildings would provide protection from witchcraft and lightning. It was also believed that the flowers of holly could be used to turn water to ice.

Reasons Why A Holly Bush Doesn’t Have Berries

Many frustrated holly owners have asked, “Why doesn’t my holly bush have berries?” While a holly bush’s glossy green leaves are beautiful, the bright red berries add an extra boost to these bushes’ beauty. So when you have a holly with no berries, you may feel you are missing out on a visual treat. Let’s look at the question of, “how do I get berries on my holly bush”?

Do All Holly Bushes Have Berries?

No, all holly bushes do not have berries. Hollies are dioecious, meaning that they need male and female plants in order to produce seeds, which are what berries are. So only female holly bushes will have the red berries.

This means that if some of your holly bushes do not have berries, they may be male and simply cannot produce berries. It also means that if all of your holly bushes do not have berries, that they may all be male or they all may be female. Without any male holly bushes nearby, the female holly bushes will not produce berries either.

There are also a few rare varieties of holly that do not have

berries on either the male or female shrubs. Make sure that you check when buying your holly bush to make sure that the variety you are buying is one that makes berries.

Other Reasons for a Holly With No Berries

While a lack of both sexes of bushes is the most common reason for when holly bush doesn’t have berries, it is not the only reason. There are several other possible answers to the question “why doesn’t my holly bush have berries.”

Male Holly Bushes are too Far Away

If the male hollies are too far away from the female hollies, the females cannot produce berries.

Make sure that the female holly shrubs are within 200 yards of a male holly shrub.

Overpruning or Early Pruning

Sometimes a holly will have no berries because the flowers that would make the berries have been cut off. This happens when the holly shrub is overpruned or pruned too early.

Holly berries will only grow on two-year-old growth. If you prune the holly bush back severely, you will cut this growth off. Also, if you prune in the summer or fall, rather than in winter or early spring, you may also be cutting off the stems that would produce berries next year.

Dry or Cold Weather

Almost all perennial plants will drop their flowers and fruit if they feel they are are in danger. Dry weather causes a holly bush to think it is in danger and it will drop its flowers and berries at that time, which means no berries later on.

Make sure that your holly bushes are getting enough water. They should be getting 1-2 inches of water a week.

A late cold snap or frost can kill the flowers on the holly bushes that would have become berries later on.

Age or Location

If your holly is too young, it will not bloom or produce berries. On average, hollies need to be at least three to five years of age before flowering and producing subsequent berries.

Another reason for non-fruiting in holly shrubs is not having enough light. Locating hollies in too much shade can reduce flowering, thus resulting in no berries.

By Ken Keffer

Janice Lech

Grow berries for birds to attract a multitude of birds, like this cedar waxwing.

I admit I’m not a huge gardener. I appreciate working the soil, and I like growing my own food, but I’m much stronger in the birding area than in the blooms. As a naturalist, though, I know there’s a lot of value in gardening for wildlife.

There’s something inspiring about seeing a cheery flock of cedar waxwings suddenly settle into your backyard, stretching to pluck every berry within reach. They gulp the fruits down one after another before leaving as quickly as they arrived.

You can revel in this picture-perfect scene, too. Not only are berries among the most natural and essential food sources for birds, they’re also easy to grow. Translation: You don’t have to be much of a gardener to grow berries for birds!

Take a look at my top 12 picks for backyard berries, compiled with the bird-watcher in mind. (My editor made me add the botanical names.) All of them are easy to grow in small spaces, yield good crops and will bring birds to your backyard for years to come. From one birder to another, I hope this advice allows you to simply plant, walk away and then get your binoculars ready to enjoy the view.

Bayberry (Myrica). While most warblers are spending the winter in Central and South America, flocks of the yellow-rumped species remain in the southern United States all winter long. Many species of bayberry, including wax myrtle, provide fruit for the warblers. In fact, the eastern subspecies of the yellow-rumped warbler is often referred to as the myrtle warbler.

Currant (Ribes). Many currants produce fragrant flowers and abundant fruit. Except for a few species, the berries are largely unpalatable to people, but the birds will thank you for planting these treats in your backyard. A bonus: Hummingbirds are wild about the flowers.

Dogwood (Cornus). Several species are native to North America, and over 40 kinds of birds have been documented eating their berries. One of my favorites is the gray catbird, whose long tail and stubby wings are perfectly suited for flying though dense dogwood thickets. The plant is available as either a small tree or a bush.

Elderberry (Sambucus). A hit with many birds, from wrentits to flycatchers, purplish-blue elderberries grow in clusters. If you somehow can harvest the berries yourself before the birds devour them, they make a delicious pie filling, jam or syrup.

Holly (Ilex). What’s more festive than holly’s bright-red berries clustered among dark-green leaves? Although the fruit can be mildly toxic and irritating to humans, birds seem to have no problem with it. Research suggests that the berries lose some of their toxicity after the first frost, which is when birds tend to chow down on them. Another thing to know about holly: It’s dioecious, meaning you need to have both male and female plants to ensure that fruit will be produced.

Huckleberry (Gaylussacia). A relative of the blueberry, huckleberry is equally popular with birds. While I prefer to enjoy it in ice cream form, the birds love it right off the bush.

Juniper (Juniperus). Any of the juniper species can offer double benefits for birds, providing good cover and choice nesting locations as well as fruit. The berries are especially popular with the Townsend’s solitaire; while they’re less appealing to some other birds, they still offer valuable winter nutrients. And for the gardener, these hardy shrubs require little maintenance.

Raspberry (Rubus idaeus).
I used to find towhees and sparrows in my raspberry patch every morning when I’d go out to harvest berries for my breakfast pancakes. The dense patches provide excellent cover, and sometimes the birds refused to flush from the thicket as I picked a few treats for myself.

Serviceberry (Amelanchier). Most of these species bloom early and then quickly yield berries for birds, including the vireos. It’s easy to find serviceberry shrubs. Some serviceberries are considered small-scale trees, but they don’t grow too large, so both tree and shrub work nicely in smaller landscapes.

Viburnum (Viburnum). With around 150 different species, this is a versatile choice for your backyard berry patch. These shrubs can do well clumped as a hedgerow. They also make a good transition species at a forest’s edge. The berries are favorites of both birds and larger wildlife.

Plant any of these choices, and watch the show begin! A flock of waxwings can make short work of a berry buffet, while a northern mockingbird will vigorously defend a berry patch to hoard the pickings, enjoying them at a leisurely pace. Either way, when you plant berries for birds, you’ll have a front-row seat to some fascinating bird behavior all year long.

Berry Benefits for Birds

Calories: High-calorie berries provide critical nutrients, especially when it’s cold out and other food is hard to find.

Antioxidants: Research indicates many species of berries for birds contain antioxidants that help them handle the stress of migration.

Shelter: Many berry bushes provide essential nesting habitat throughout the year while protecting birds from bad weather and predators.


I am looking for information on why my ‘Dragon Lady’ holly drops its berries before they turn red. I have lots of green berries, but most of them drop. This has happened each year since we planted it. It is healthy otherwise and about 6 years old.

A: I’ve seen that on most ‘Dragon Lady’ hollies in my travels. These make great upright evergreens (one of my favorites, actually), but they don’t seem to be one of the best fruiters.

Like you, I’ve noticed that most ‘Dragon Ladies’ seem to have a decent amount of green fruit in late spring, but come late summer, not many are left to turn red.

That leads me to believe there’s a genetic predisposition for ‘Dragon Lady’ to drop most of its fruit – similar to how many fruit trees naturally thin themselves in order to produce fewer but bigger and healthier remaining mature fruits. (Fruit-growers call it the “June drop.”)

If that’s correct, there’s nothing you can do about that.

A second possibility is that the green fruits aren’t completely pollinated. ‘Dragon Lady’ is a hybrid female that needs a compatible nearby male to pollinate its flowers. ‘Blue Stallion’ and ‘Blue Prince’ are two good ones for that.

It’s possible that you’re getting enough pollination to form fruits, but the process isn’t happening thoroughly enough that the fruits can make it to maturity. With poor pollination, developing fruits will abort and drop.

Adding a ‘Blue Stallion’ or ‘Blue Prince’ nearby (if you don’t already have one) might help with this, although it could be a genetic flaw of ‘Dragon Lady’ that it’s just weak in the pollen-accepting department.

A third explanation could be some kind of stress, especially drought or a sudden heat wave at pollination time or poor soil nutrition.

Those would more likely explain bad fruiting in some years instead of having a drop happen every year.

You could run a soil test to see where you stand with the major nutrients and acid level of the soil. For good measure, give the plant a good soaking during hot, dry spells.

English Holly – Ilex aquifolium

When thoughts turn to Christmas it’s hard not to think about Holly – especially as if you happen to be doing any shopping at this time of year you’ll probably be seeing it everywhere!

Anybody growing a holly tree will tell you the joy they’ve had raiding the branches for creating homemade wreaths and garlands, a great activity for keeping kids occupied in the exciting run up to Christmas! Holly sprigs are also marvellous when added to a winter bouquet and can be painted or sprayed silver for a truly dazzling display.

In general our most common holly is the Ilex aquifolium also known as the English Holly, a glossy green prickly leafed shrub with bright red berries to brighten up a winter garden.

Hollies tend to be shapely, architectural plants that will happily hold there own as a stand-alone feature. In the garden evergreen hollies are an excellent choice. The iconic prickly leaves will give all year round pleasure with vivid new growth in spring and summer and in winter the female plants will be laden with berries. Holly bushes are dioecious, meaning they need male and female plants to pollinate, and without pollination you won’t get any berries. In general you only need to have one male plant nearby and it will pollinate multiple females.

Tips for the wildlife friendly gardener.

The female plants produce flowers that will later turn in to berries in winter – great for birds.

The male plants produce flowers that make pollen – great for birds and butterflies! Despite their very subtle scent you will notice lots of honey bees and other pollinating insects hovering around your holly bushes in the spring.

Holly hedges make excellent homes for birds and wildlife, the prickly leaves excellent for winter protection.


Plant out in full sun, or partial shade and they prefer well drained, sandy soil but will cope with most soils as long as there is good drainage. Give them a good mulching. Hollies don’t like to be disturbed and are slow growers, sometimes not really showing any progress for 2-3 years however a mature shrub is well worth the wait!

You shouldn’t need to prune hollies too much as they will form a good shape by themselves however if you do need to do a little light pruning to remove damaged, diseased wood do it in late winter or early spring. Mulch and feed after pruning.

Why do we decorate with holly at Christmas?

Holly (Ilux Aquifolium) is a shrub or tree found primarily in North America, Europe and Asia. With hundreds of species of the plant ranging from short shrubs (two meters high) to tall trees (up to forty meters high), it’s known primarily for its bright crimson berries and prickly green leaves.

Hollies can be evergreen, meaning the plant’s glossy leaves are on the tree year-round, or deciduous, meaning the leaves fall off seasonally. Most hollies are evergreens that can thrive in the sunlight or the shade and benefit from well-drained soil. The leaves, characterized by a waxy texture and serrated edges, are dioecious, with male and female reproductive structures found on separate plants. Both male (staminate) and female (pistillate) hollies bloom in May or June, yielding white flowers. But only the females can produce berries. In order for this production to occur, a male plant must be near a female plant for the process of pollination to take place. Insects, like bees, help cross-pollinate female hollies, transferring pollen from the male to the female plants.


Like its holiday companion, mistletoe, a holly’s berries are toxic to humans, resulting in nausea and severe stomachaches when ingested. Not so for some animals. Berries are a vital source of food for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds. Holly berries, which ripen in early winter, typically contain four seeds each. The birds that eat these seeds help scatter them for germination, the growth of new holly plants.

­Although the scarlet berries are famously prominent in homes for the holiday season, they’re not the only useful part of hollies. The berries are poisonous, but the green leaves have been used in herbal remedies for centuries for various medical conditions like dizziness, fever and hypertension, though there is little medical proof of the plant’s effectiveness. Holly wood is hard and compact, making it excellent for carving; it’s sometimes used to make chess pieces and walking sticks. And while the berries provide nourishment for birds, a holly’s bark can be used to make a sticky substance called birdlime, used for trapping birds. Birdlime, which can be made by boiling holly bark for several hours, is illegal in many countries and viewed as inhumane.

For more information on holly, mistletoe, and all things Christmas, visit the next page. ­

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Holly Home Page

English holly
(Ilex aquifolium LINN.)
Click on graphic for larger image

Botanical: Ilex aquifolium (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Aquifoliaceae

  • History
  • Description
  • Cultivation
  • Part Used
  • Medicinal Action and Uses

—Synonyms—Hulver Bush. Holm. Hulm. Holme Chase. Holy Tree. Christ’s Thorn.
—Parts Used—Leaves, berries, bark.
—Habitat—The Holly is a native of most of the central and southern parts of Europe. It grows very slowly: when planted among trees which are not more rapid in growth than itself, it is sometimes drawn up to a height of 50 feet, but more frequently its greatest height in this country is 30 to 40 feet, and it rarely exceeds 2 feet in diameter. In Italy and in the woods of France, especially in Brittany, it attains a much larger size than is common in these islands. Holly, the most important of the English evergreens, forming one of the most striking objects in the wintry woodland, with its glossy leaves and clusters of brilliant scarlet berries, is in the general mind closely connected with the festivities of Christmas, having been from very early days in the history of these islands gathered in great quantities for Yuletide decorations, both of the Church and of the home. The old Christmas Carols are full of allusions to Holly: …….’Christmastide Comes in like a bride, With Holly and Ivy clad.’ —History—Christmas decorations are said to be derived from a custom observed by the Romans of sending boughs, accompanied by other gifts, to their friends during the festival of the Saturnalia, a custom the early Christians adopted. In confirmation of this opinion, a subsequent edict of the Church of Bracara has been quoted, forbidding Christians to decorate their houses at Christmas with green boughs at the same time as the pagans, the Saturnalia commencing about a week before Christmas. The origin has also been traced to the Druids, who decorated their huts with evergreens during winter as an abode for the sylvan spirits. In old church calendars we find Christmas Eve marked templa exornantur (churches are decked), and the custom is as deeply rooted in modern times as in either pagan or early Christian days.

An old legend declares that the Holly first sprang up under the footsteps of Christ, when He trod the earth, and its thorny leaves and scarlet berries, like drops of blood, have been thought symbolical of the Saviour’s sufferings, for which reason the tree is called ‘Christ’s Thorn’ in the languages of the northern countries of Europe. It is, perhaps, in connexion with these legends that the tree was called the Holy Tree, as it is generally named by our older writers. Turner, for instance, refers to it by this name in his Herbal published in 1568. Other popular names for it are Hulver and Holme, and it is still called Hulver in Norfolk, and Holme in Devon, and Holme Chase in one part of Dartmoor.

Pliny describes the Holly under the name of Aquifolius, needle leaf, and adds that it was the same tree called by Theophrastus Crataegus, but later commentators deny this. Pliny tells us that Holly if planted near a house or farm, repelled poison, and defended it from lightning and witchcraft, that the flowers cause water to freeze, and that the wood, if thrown at any animal, even without touching it, had the property of compelling the animal to return and lie down by it.

—Description—It sometimes sends up a clean stem furnished with a bushy head, or it may form a perfect pyramid, leafy to the base. The trunk, like that of the Beech, frequently has small wood knots attached to it: these are composed of a smooth nodule of solid wood embedded in bark, and may be readily separated from the tree by a smart blow. The bark is of a remarkably light hue, smooth and grey, often touched with faint crimson, and is very liable to be infected with an exceedingly thin lichen, the fructification of which consists of numerous curved black lines, closely resembling Oriental writing.

The leaves are thick and glossy, about 2 inches long and 1 1/4 inch broad, and edged with stout prickles, whose direction is alternately upwards and downwards, and of which the terminal one alone is invariably in the same plane as the leaf. The upper leaves have mostly only a single prickle. The leaves have neither taste nor odour. They remain attached to the tree for several years, and when they fall, defy for a long time the action of air and moisture, owing to their leathery texture and durable fibres, which take a long time to decay.

Professor Henslow says: ‘It has been gravely asserted that holly leaves are only prickly on trees as high as a beast can reach, but at the top it has no spines; that spiny processes of all sorts are a provision of Nature against browsing animals. The truth is that they are the result of drought. A vigorous shoot of Holly may have small leaves without spines at the base, when vigour was beginning; normal, large leaves in the middle when growth was most active; and later on small spineless leaves again appear as the annual energy is declining. Moreover, hollies of ten grow to twenty feet in height, with spiny leaves throughout, and if spineless ones do occur at the top, it is only the result of lessened energy. A cow has been known to be partial to some holly bushes within reach, which had to be protected, just as another would eat stinging-nettles: and the camel lives upon the “Camel-thorn.” This animal has a hardened pad to the roof of its mouth, so feels no inconvenience in eating it.’ In May, the Holly bears in the axils of the leaves, crowded, small, whitish flowers, male and female flowers being usually borne on different trees. The fertile flowers are succeeded by the familiar, brilliant, coral-red berries. The same tree rarely produces abundant crops of flowers in consecutive seasons, and Hollies sometimes produce abundance of flowers, but never mature berries, this barrenness being caused by the male flowers alone being properly developed. Berries are rarely produced abundantly when the tree is much clipped, and are usually found in the greatest number on the upper part of the tree, where the leaves are less spiny.

The berries, though eaten by birds, are injurious to human beings, and children should be warned against them. Deer will eat the leaves in winter, and sheep thrive on them. They are infested with few insects.

The ease with which Holly can be kept trimmed renders it valuable as a hedge plant: it forms hedges of great thickness that are quite impenetrable.

It has been stated by M. J. Pierre, that the young stems are gathered in Morbihan by the peasants, and made use of as a cattle-food from the end of November until April, with great success. The stems are dried, and having been bruised are given as food to cows three times daily. They are found to be very wholesome and productive of good milk, and the butter made from it is excellent.

It is also well known to rabbit-breeders that a Holly-stick placed in a hutch for the rabbits to gnaw, will act as a tonic, and restore their appetite.

The wood of Holly is hard, compact and of a remarkable even substance throughout. Except towards the centre of very old trees, it is beautifully white, and being susceptible of a very high polish, is much prized for ornamental ware, being extensively used for inlaying, as in the so-called Tunbridge ware. The evenness of its grain makes it very valuable to the turner. When freshly cut, it is of a slightly greenish hue, but soon becomes perfectly white, and its hardness makes it superior to any other white wood. As it is very retentive of its sap and warps in consequence, it requires to be well dried and seasoned before being used. It is often stained blue, green, red or black; when of the latter colour, its principal use is as a substitute for ebony, as in the handles of metal teapots. Mathematical instruments are made of it, also the blocks for calico printing, and it has been employed in wood engraving as a substitute for boxwood, to which, however, it is inferior. The wood of the silver-striped variety is said to be whiter than that of the common kind.

A straight Holly-stick is much prized for the stocks of light driving whips, also for walking-sticks.

The common Holly is the badge of the Drummonds.

—Cultivation—The Holly will grow in almost any soil, provided it is not too wet, but attains the largest size in rich, sandy or gravelly loam, where there is good drainage, and a moderate amount of moisture at the roots, for in very dry localities it is usually stunted in its growth, but it will live in almost any earth not saturated with stagnant water. The most favourable situation seems to be a thin scattered wood of Oaks, in the intervals of which it grows up at once. It is rarely injured by even the most severe winters.

Holly is raised from seeds, which do not germinate until the second year, hence the berries are generally buried in a heap of earth for a year previously to being sown. The young plants are transplanted when about a foot or 18 inches high, autumn being the best time for the process. If intended for a hedge, the soil around should be previously well trenched and moderately manured if necessary. Holly exhausts the soil around it to a greater extent than most deciduous trees. At least two years will be needed to recover the check given by transplanting. Although always a slow grower, Holly grows more quickly after the first four or five years.

The cultivated varieties of Holly are very numerous: of these one is distinguished by the unusual colour of its berries, which are yellow. Other forms are characterized by the variegated foliage, or by the presence of a larger or smaller number of prickles than ordinary.

In winter the garden and shrubbery are much indebted to the more showy varieties for the double contrast afforded by their leaves and berries. They are propagated by grafting on four- or five-year-old plants of the common sort and by cuttings.

The best time to cut down Holly is early in the spring, before the sap rises. A sloping cut is preferable to a straight one, as moisture is thus prevented from remaining on the cut portion, and as an additional precaution the wound should be covered with a coating of tar. The side growths should be left, as they will help to draw up the sap.

—Part Used—The leaves and berries, also the bark. The leaves are used both fresh and dried, but usually in the dried condition, for which they are collected in May and June. They should be stripped off the tree on a dry day, the best time being about noon, when there is no longer any trace of dew on them. All stained or insect-eaten leaves must be rejected.

—Medicinal Action and Uses—Holly leaves were formerly used as a diaphoretic and an infusion of them was given in catarrh, pleurisy and smallpox. They have also been used in intermittent fevers and rheumatism for their febrifugal and tonic properties, and powdered, or taken in infusion or decoction, have been employed with success where Cinchona has failed, their virtue being said to depend on a bitter principle, an alkaloid named Ilicin. The juice of the fresh leaves has been employed with advantage in jaundice.

The berries possess totally different qualities to the leaves, being violently emetic and purgative, a very few occasioning excessive vomiting soon after they are swallowed, though thrushes and blackbirds eat them with impunity. They have been employed in dropsy; also, in powder, as an astringent to check bleeding.

Culpepper says ‘the bark and leaves are good used as fomentations for broken bones and such members as are out of joint.’ He considered the berries to be curative of colic.

From the bark, stripped from the young shoots and suffered to ferment, birdlime is made. The bark is stripped off about midsummer and steeped in clean water; then boiled till it separates into layers, when the inner green portion is laid up in small heaps till fermentation ensues. After about a fortnight has elapsed, it becomes converted into a sticky, mucilaginous substance, and is pounded into a paste, washed and laid by again to ferment. It is then mixed with some oily matter, goosefat being preferred, and is ready for use. Very little, however, is now made in this country. In the north of England, Holly was formerly so abundant in the Lake District, that birdlime was made from it in large quantities and shipped to the East Indies for destroying insects.

The leaves of Holly have been employed in the Black Forest as a substitute for tea. Paraguay Tea, so extensively used in Brazil, is made from the dried leaves and young shoots of another species of Holly (Ilex Paraguayensis), growing in South America, an instance of the fact that similar properties are often found in more than one species of the same genus.

I. Gongonha and I. Theezans, also used in Brazil as tea, and like I. Paraguayensis are valuable diuretics and diaphoretics. The leaves of I. Paraguayensis and several others are used by dyers; the unripe fruits of I. Macoucoua abound in tannin, and bruised in a ferruginous mud, are used in dyeing cotton, acting something like galls.


Common Name Index

Bear in mind “A Modern Herbal” was written with the conventional wisdom of the early 1900’s. This should be taken into account as some of the information may now be considered inaccurate, or not in accordance with modern medicine.

© Copyright Protected 1995-2018

How to Identify a Tree with Red Berries


Red berries make bright and beautiful additions to any tree or bush. Sometimes, they’re also a delicious and nutritious treat, either for you or the local wildlife in your area. Other times, though, red berries can contain ingredients that could be harmful to eat. An understanding of the types of trees and bushes that contain red berries can help you understand which berries to share and which to avoid.

Tree Identification

It’s easy to spot a bush or tree with red berries since the bright bulbs often stand out against the green or brown of the trees. But it’s not as easy to identify exactly what type of red berry bush or tree it may be. One good place to start is to identify the tree by leaf. Most trees have one of three types of leaves:

Needles: You can often find needle-shaped leaves on trees that bear cones, such as pine and evergreen trees.

Scales: Many berry-bearing trees have scaly leaves. They’re often near the twig and, as the name implies, are scaly and may have bulbs or berries at their tips.

Broadleaf: These are the flat, broad leaves associated with common trees like oaks and maples.

Red Berry Identification

If you’re not sure what type of tree or bush you’re seeing, you can also try to identify it by the berry. Here are some of the most common red berries that grow on trees and shrubs:

Honeysuckle: Sometimes, red berries grow on honeysuckle shrubs in the United States. They’re bright red, bulbous and sticky and grow close to the twig near the stem of the broad leaves of the honeysuckle plant. They’re not as poisonous to humans as some berries, unless eaten in large quantities, but still shouldn’t be eaten.

Firethorn: Also known as pyracantha, these red berries grow in dense clusters so numerous that the tree can appear red from far away. The tree also produces small white flowers. The berry is too bitter to eat when raw, but some people cook it and make it into jams and sauces.

Dogwood: Found in shady, wooded areas, you can identify a red dogwood berry by the black spot found on one side of it and its yellow center. They grow in small clusters close to the twig on dogwood trees. Birds love them, but they’re toxic for humans.

Rose hip: These red berries can sometimes be a deep purple as well and are distinguishable by the hairs that grow out from the bottom of the berries. You should avoid those hairs if you want to eat the berries, but many people use them to make jams, soups, beverages, wine and herbal teas.

Barberry: These oval-shaped berries grow on thorny bushes and hang from the twigs like ornaments. Inside, the berries have two brown seeds. They’re a little too bitter for most people’s tastes, but some people enjoy them in teas or juices.

Holly: One of the most popular decorative plants during the winter holiday season, these small, bright red berries have one seed. They’re attached to shiny, dark green leaves with pointy spikes. While you might see birds enjoying them, stay away from them yourself and keep them away from kids or pets if you use them in holiday decorations. In humans, they can cause vomiting or diarrhea.

Proceeding With Caution

If you’re still not sure what type of berry you see, it’s best to err on the side of safety and stay away until you can positively identify it. Additionally, if you have a houseplant that contains toxic red berries, make sure you keep it away from children and pets. If you’ve ingested red berries and start experiencing any side effects, such as diarrhea, stomach cramps, blurry vision or swelling of the face, lips or throat, contact a medical professional immediately.

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