Dwarf Yaupon Holly
Holly is a genus of approximately 600 species of
flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the
only living genus in that family.
Holly berries are somewhat toxic and will cause
vomiting and/or diarrhea when ingested by people,
partly due to the ilicin content. The fatal dose is
estimated to be around twenty berries for adults.
However they are extremely important food for
numerous species of birds, and also are eaten by
other wild animals. In the fall and early winter the
berries are hard and apparently unpalatable. After
being frozen or frosted several times, the berries
soften, and become milder in taste. During winter
storms, birds often take refuge in hollies, which
provide shelter, protection from predators (by the
spiny leaves), and food. The flowers are sometimes
eaten by the larva of the Double-striped Pug moth
(Gymnoscelis rufifasciata). Other Lepidoptera whose
larvae feed on holly include Bucculatrix ilecella
(which feeds exclusively on hollies) and The
Engrailed (Ectropis crepuscularia). Holly is
commonly referenced at Christmas time. Also see:
wreath for information on how the holly plant is
used in Christmas wreaths.
Having evolved numerous species that are endemic
to islands and small mountain ranges, and being
highly useful plants, many hollies are now becoming
rare. Tropical species are especially often threatened
by habitat destruction and overexploitation, and at
least two have become extinct, with numerous
others barely surviving.
Nellie R. Stevens Holly