Christmas holly

(Ilex aquifolium )
On Mt. Paggaio, it is found more often in higher densities along ravine forests in its northern part.
Sophia Siggiridou_Kostas Vidakis, MSc

Distribution of the species

On Mt. Paggaio, it is found more often in higher densities along ravine forests in its northern part. It occurs sporadically in deciduous broadleaved forests, near streams in the northern part of the mountain, but also on edges and the understory of oak and beech forests. It is found at altitudes between 600 and 1,250 m asl.

Description of the species (biological and ecological features)

Evergreen, slow-growing small tree (or shrub), 8-10 m tall. Its leaves are elliptical or oblong, shiny and leathery, smooth and dark green on the upper surface and light green on the lower. The margins lof leaves on young branches are spiny, while the margins of leaves on old branches are smooth. The flowers are white, consisting of either male or female reproductive organs. Flowering takes place from May to June. The fruit is spherical, bright red at maturity. Regarding its tolerance in light, it is a semi-shady species in Western Europe, whereas it prefers fully-shaded sites in Mediterranean countries. It prefers well-drained, acidic soils, but can tolerate variable soil conditions. It is a plant resistant to sea exposure, as well as air pollution. Have you ever wondered why we use Christmas wreaths and twigs on our front doors or why the English people have called it “holly”? The reason is found mainly on Anglo-Saxon myths that connect the plant with magical properties that protect the one who uses them either from witches and elves or from the general evil and for this reason the plant is considered sacred. A similar tradition from the south of England wants the Christmas wreath to be hung on the front door to keep witches out of the house indefinitely. Before entering the house, the witches will want to count the bright red fruits of the wreath, but as they can only count to four, they will find themselves ever-counting and staying outside. Its fruits, a source of food for birds and smaller mammals, are toxic to humans.

Although both its distribution range and population size are not very large, we did not detect any threat that could endanger its future on Mt. Paggaio. Cutting of branches by mountain hikers could be a threat to the species, although considered low.

Conservation status

Least Concern.

Conservation state

Assigned to the “LC-Least Concern” category by IUCN. However, this does not mean that it is safe or that it does not have a direct extinction risk. It is not subjected to any national or international conservation status.