The Buzz

Tis the Season of our Holly Collection

As the holiday season approaches, people frequently turn to the Holly for decoration, along with conifers and poinsettias. Their evergreen quality and colorful berries make them perfect accents for holiday decor, and are used in America as well as other other countries where Christmas is celebrated. Holly is native in England (remember “A Christmas Carol” with Scrooge) as well as other parts of Europe, China, Japan, Korea and of course the United States.

Hollies are a very diverse genus. There are small dwarf shrubs. large shrubs and some that can be considered sizable trees. Most are evergreen but a few are deciduous. Leaf size can vary from smaller than the nail on your little finger, such as Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) and Inkberry (Ilex glabra) to leaves comparable in size to Southern Magnolia leaves, Luster leaf (Ilex latifolia). While berries are usually red there are some varieties that have yellow berries and even a few that are various shades of red and even orange. Hollies with smaller leaves grow well in full sun, while those with larger foliage do well in some shade since they have a larger surface to gather sun light.

The Memphis Botanic Garden was very fortunate to receive Barbara Taylor’s personal Holly Collection. She was the President of the International Holly Society and spoke frequently at Holly Conferences in the United States, France and South Korea. You can find the largest grouping of her holly collection in the area northeast of the Butterfly Garden, while other specimens are planted in the Arboretum and throughout our gardens.

Holly berries are waxy in texture and high in fat. A valuable food source for migrating birds or those who stay throughout the winter. On the other hand, holly wood is toxic and shouldn’t be planted where hoofed animals might eat the plants. The wood itself is hard and wood from older trees has been used to making furniture and other items.


Overall Holly is a beautiful and useful plant. We are fortunate to live in a part of the country where so many species of holly thrive. It is a wonderful addition to the landscape and a beautiful addition to Holiday décor!

Posted by Memphis Botanic Garden at 3:00 PM


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