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Trees With Flowers Or Fruits - The Hollies

( Originally Published 1927 )



The holly family, of five genera, is distributed from the north to the south temperate zones, with representation in every continent. It includes trees and shrubs of one hundred and seventy-five species, seventy of which grow in northern Brazil. The dried and powdered leaves of two holly trees of Paraguay are commercially known as maté, or Paraguay tea, to which the people of South America are addicted, as we are to the tea of China. "Yerba maté" has a remarkable, stimulating effect upon the human system, fortifying it for incredible exertions and endurance. Indulged in to excess, it has much the effect of alcohol.

China and Japan have thirty different species of holly. America has fourteen, four of which assume tree form; the rest are shrubby "winterberries."

European Holly

Ilex aquifolium, Linn.

The holly of Europe is perhaps the most popular ornamental tree in the world, cultivated in Europe through centuries, and now coming to be a favorite garden plant wherever hardy in the United States. Some indication of its popularity abroad is found in the fact that one hundred and fifty-three distinct horticultural varieties are in cultivation. The Englishman makes hedges of it, and depends upon it to give life and color to his lawn and flower borders in the winter. The fellfare or fieldfare, a little thrush, feeds upon the tempting red berries in winter; but even when these dashes of color are all gone, the brilliance of the spiny-margined leaves enlivens any landscape.

Americans know the European holly chiefly through importations of the cut branches offered in the markets for Christmas decoration. The leaf is small, brilliantly polished, and very deeply indented between long, spiny tips, giving it a far more decorative quality than the native evergreen holly of the South.

Many varieties of the European holly are found in American gardens, particularly near eastern cities. North of Washington they must be tied up in straw for the winter, and in the latitude of Boston it is a struggle to keep them alive. From southern California to Vancouver, no such precautions are necessary, and the little trees deserve a much wider popularity than they yet enjoy. Grown commercially, they are the finest of Christmas greens.

American Holly

I. Opaca, Ait.

The American holly also yields its branches for Christmas greens. In the remotest village in the North one may now buy at any grocery store a sprig of red-berried holly to usher in the holiday season. The tree is a small one at best, slow-growing, pyramidal, twenty to forty feet in height, with short, horizontal branches and tough, close-grained white wood. It is rare to find so close an imitation of ivory, in color and texture, as holly wood supplies. It is the delight of the wood engraver, who uses it for his blocks. Scroll work and turnery employ it. It is used for tool handles, walking-sticks, and whip-stocks. Veneer of holly is used in inlay work.

In southern woods and barren fallow fields where hollies grow, collectors, without discrimination, cut many trees each autumn, strip them of their branches, and leave the trunks to rot upon the ground. The increasing demand for Christmas holly seriously threatens the present supply, for no methods are being practised for its renewal. It will not be long before the wood engraver will have to buy his blocks by the pound, as he does the eastern boxwood.

The range of this holly tree extends from southern Maine to Florida, throughout the Gulf states, and north into Indiana and Missouri.

The Yaupon

I. vomitoria, Ait.

The yaupon is a shrubby tree of spreading habit, with very small, oval, evergreen leaves and red berries. It grows from Virginia to Florida and west to Texas and Arkansas. A nauseating beverage, made by boiling its leaves, was the famous "black drink" of the Indians. A yearly ceremonial, in which the whole tribe took part, was the persistent drinking of this tea for several days, the object being a thorough cleansing of the system.



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