A reasonably mature Holly which has had lower branches removed

The tree is easy to recognise with its distinctive dark green leaves which have sharp spikes protruding at the tips.  It is often mixed with hawthorn to make impenetrable hedging.  We are all familiar with images of red-berried holly adorning so much merchandise at Christmas time.  Holly can be used to make walking sticks that are interesting to the eye and hard wearing in use.

There are, however, one or two difficulties with holly. Firstly, the bark can be somewhat difficult to work with. When seasoned it is a dark colour and covered in a coarse network of light greyish raised ridges. Frequently patches of bark  come loose during seasoning, so it is bonus when one has an opportunity to produce a ‘bark-on’ walking stick.

Other challenges presented by holly are (a) a tendency for it to taper too sharply, (b) the cross section can be oval rather than round and (c) the extra time required to season the timber. Notwithstanding these problems, it is well worthwhile persevering with the species as the end result is invariably a stick with charm and character.

See my stock of Holly Sticks

Leaf from Holly Tree

Holly Leaf


The Holly has a simple leaf. The leaf margin has spines, especially on young plants. The leaves are shiny/glossy and are evergreen. They can be quite stiff with an almost leathery texture. The leaf is dark green on the top/upper surface and paler on the lower surface.

The leaves of holly contain a bitter tasting alkaloid – ilicin. It is possible that this deters many leaf eating insects.  Indeed, compared to many trees the holly is not subject to sustained insect attack – though it leaves can harbour the holly leaf miner. This is the larval stage of a fly. Its mining activities can cause local discolouration of the leaf – or the entire leaf may be affected though more unusual.