(Ilex opaca) Holly family

Flowers - Very small, greenish or yellowish white, from 3 to 10

staminate ones in a short cyme; fertile flowers usually solitary,

scattered. Stem: A small tree of very slow growth, rarely

attaining any great height. Leaves: Evergreen, thick, rigid,

glossy, elliptical, scalloped edged, spiny-tipped. Fruit: Round,

red berries.

Preferred Habitat - Moist woods and thickets.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Maine to the Gulf of Mexico, west to Texas,

chiefly near the coast and south of New York.

Happily we continue to borrow all the beautiful Old World

associations, poetical and legendary, that cluster about the

holly at Christmas time, although our native tree furnishes most

of our holiday decorations. So far back as Pliny's day, the

European holly had all manner of supernatural qualities

attributed to it: its insignificant little flowers caused water

to freeze, he tells us; because it was believed to repel

lightning, the Romans planted it near their houses; and a branch

of it thrown after any refractory animal, even if it did not hit

him, would subdue him instantly, and cause him to lie down meekly

beside the stick! Can it be that the Italian peasants, who still

believe cattle kneel in their stalls at midnight on the

anniversary of Jesus' birth, decorate the mangers on Christmas

eve with holly, among other plants, because of a survival of this

old pagan notion about its subduing effect on animals?

Would that the beautiful holly of English gardens (I.

Aquifolium), more glossy and spiny of leaf and redder of berry

than our own, might live here; but it is too tender to withstand

New England winters, and the hot, dry summers farther south soon

prove fatal. Ilex was the ancient name, not of these plants, but

of the holly oak.

The MOUNTAIN HOLLY (Ilicioides mucronata - Nemopanthes Canadensis

of Gray) a shrub of the northern swamps, about six feet high, and

by no means confined to mountainous regions, since it is also

abundant in the middle West, has smooth-edged, elliptic, petioled

leaves, ash-colored bark, small, solitary, narrow-petalled

staminate and pistillate flowers on long, threadlike pedicels

from the leaf-axils in May. In August dull pale-red berries

appear. Darwin proved that seed set with the help of pollen

brought from distinct plants produces offspring that vanquishes

the offspring of seed set with pollen brought from another flower

on the same plant in the struggle for existence. Thus we see, in

very many ambitious plants besides those of the holly tribe, a

tendency to separate the male and the female flowers as widely as


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