15th April 2022
The holly – ilex aquifolium – can grow up to 15m and live for 300 years. It has white flowers and red berries, both providing food for wildlife, whilst its dense all-year round leaves provides welcome shelter. It has strong, white wood, much favoured for walking sticks and chess pieces. It also makes good firewood. Surprisingly its leaves can be fed to livestock as nutritious winter feed. In the depths of winter the holly provides warmth, sustenance and shelter, as well as the joy of its bright red berries.
The holly has long had a spiritual significance, originally linked to fertility. In Christian symbolism the red berries are a reminder of Christ’s blood, the white flowers of purity, and the spiny leaves his crown of thorns.
The holly and the ivy, when they are both full grown,
Of all the tree that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown ….
The holly bears a berry, as red as any blood,
And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ to do poor sinners good ….
(This Christmas Carol dates back in print to 1710 but is probably much older)
He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a buckler. Psalm 91:4