Their winter-ripening red berries and glossy green leaves bring natural colour into our homes at Christmas, and also into our woods, where their shade tolerance means they thrive at shrub level. The berries are an important food source for birds and mice, with frosts softening them up and apparently making them palatable (but don’t put them where your pets or children might be tempted!). Dense holly bushes provide good shelter for birds and a relatively safe location for their nests. The leaves are great when you’re starting a fire, even when fresh, and it’s worth noting that those high up on bushes lack the distinctive defensive prickles of leaves lower down. The deep dry leaf litter is attractive to hedgehogs looking for somewhere to hibernate. World-wide there are about 480 different species of holly, and Christians and pagans alike have found symbolism in their features. Merry Christmas.
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