Appalachia Appalachia Through My Eyes Christmas Wildflowers & Trees Of Appalachia

Appalachia Through My Eyes – Holly Trees

My life in appalachia - Holly Trees

From songs to decorations-Holly is all over Christmas. I’ve never given any thought to where holly trees grow until the other day. I over heard someone saying since they left the north east they sorely missed seeing the red berries on the holly trees this time of the year.

I assumed everyone in the US got to enjoy holly trees-so prettily decorated by nature. The woods surrounding my mountain holler are chock full of holly trees. The Deer Hunter has told me for years-the biggest holly tree he’s ever seen is up the creek in the Tom Cove.

There are 3 holly trees on my road that never fail to catch my eye during the holiday season. Each tree is only a hop skip and a jump from the other. In fact as I write this I do believe you could draw a diagonal line between the 3 and it would be fairly straight.

The first tree is in the yard of the first house on my road-a big white farm house-which is also by far the oldest house on my road. I’ve known the folks who lived there my entire life-first the elder couple-then their Grandson-now their Great Grandson. Now as I think about where holly trees grow-I wonder if their tree was left by chance-or if Clarence and Ruby, the elder couple, loved the red berries as much as I do and made sure the tree grew unhindered.

The second holly tree is just up the road, but out in the pasture. A little set of woods that breaks up the large pasture is home to that very large holly tree.

The third holly tree is a little further up the road-around the curve. It’s not as large as the first 2 trees and it grows just outside the fence-all close up to the barb wire like it wishes it was in the pasture too.

As I was trying to find the natural growing range for holly trees-I found this page-you can jump over to see a map highlighting the growth areas. Also especially fitting was this quote from the page:

H. E. Grelen

When the Pilgrims landed the week before Christmas in 1620 on the coast of what is now Massachusetts, the evergreen, prickly leaves and red berries of American holly (Ilex opaca) reminded them of the English holly (Ilex aquifolium), a symbol of Christmas for centuries in England and Europe (13,26). Since then American holly, also called white holly or Christmas holly, has been one of the most valuable and popular trees in the Eastern United States for its foliage and berries, used for Christmas decorations, and for ornamental plantings.

Do Holly Trees grown naturally around your place?


Appalachia Through My Eyes – A series of photographs from my life in Southern Appalachia.


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  • Reply
    December 24, 2011 at 7:26 am

    Not any here on the farm. I tried planting one once and something pulled it up. I love them, too!

  • Reply
    Nantahala Farms & Nursery
    December 22, 2011 at 12:22 am

    Tipper I don’t have any holly trees around here that I know of, but I think they are so pretty with the bright red berries!!!!

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    I don’t know whether it is too cold or just not the right setting, but we do not have Holly trees in west central Missouri. Around my grandparents home in south Arkansas, the trees were common and so pretty if you were cutting the branches before the birds harvested the fruit. How fortunate you are! On rare occcasions, I found a lone tree in the Ozarks. Mistletoe was common but that doesn’t grow here either! Thanks for sharing, Tipper.

  • Reply
    Kent Lockman
    December 21, 2011 at 10:36 pm

    Yes Tipper holly trees grow in abundance in Indiana. My son has two in his front yard. Because of the cold winters, the trees don’t grow all that tall.
    Kent Lockman

  • Reply
    Mary Rutherford
    December 21, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Like Ethelene, I love the Holly & the Ivy song. Last year I made bright red pinafores and ivy covered hoops and taught some of my students a simple garland dance to the song. They looked beautiful with little holly wreaths on their heads and were a big hit at our Christmas show. I am blessed with a large amount of holly in my yard and surrounding woods. Every year in the late winter I have a large flock of Cedar Waxwings that travel by to feast for two or three weeks. They wing in by the dozens and bring the promise of spring.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    We have holly bushes out front of our house here in the North Georgia mountains. I love when it snows and they are snow covered. I’m always out there with my camera.

  • Reply
    Gary Powell
    December 21, 2011 at 4:31 pm

    Had many wild hollies on my Granny’s farm near Eubank, Ky. There are some on my place South of Louisville, but I suspect they were spread by birds from the tame hollies. Still pretty though and make me think of Granny’s place. I am careful to mow around them.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 21, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    We have holly trees here in south Florida, they are natives, a variety called Palatka Holly. There is also a smaller bush that I don’t know the name of, but I don’t think it is a native. There is a big tree behind our cabin in NC, I had never seen berries until last year. I wondered if there were male and female trees until I saw a squirrel methodically stripping the tree of all the berries.

  • Reply
    kenneth o. hoffman
    December 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    Tipper: well we have plenty of them rascals out here in Washington st one next to my sisters house is about 24 ft tall, and loaded with red berries. its about 70 years old,i dont know if they are native to this area though. so many people migrated out here in the 20s and 30s and they brought any thing they could haul. we love um. k.o.h

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    I like Holly trees. I really like anything red! We have a million of those trees here but, unless they are the store bought (nursery type) they never have berries. At least I never see them.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 2:00 pm

    I remember when I was in elementary school our first grade teacher was telling us all about holly. I was so excited, because it looked so pretty in the pictures that she showed us. That evening, I was telling my Grandmother all about this wonderful plant. She laughed and told me that there was a holly tree just on the edge of her yard next to the woods. BUT, it was a male holly, so it did not have berries. I remember thinking that Grandma was losing her mind. Male or female bushes? HA! Needless to say, Grandma was right. . . as with most things! 😉
    Now, in the the woods behind my house, there is a HUGE holly bush, but it is a male,too. In my yard, I have two female, smooth-leaf holly bushes. I planted two blue holly bushes, but one has already died and the other does not look too healthy!

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    We have holly growing all along the front of our house here in KY. It is especially beautiful when covered in Christmas snow.

  • Reply
    Karen Larsen
    December 21, 2011 at 12:18 pm

    I live in PA and we have holly trees/bushes (although not on my property, unfortunately). I always heard you have to have a male tree and a female tree. The male tree doesn’t have berries– only the female. But if someone else knows more about this, please correct me! Happy Holly-days!

  • Reply
    Melissa P (Misplaced Southerner)
    December 21, 2011 at 11:31 am

    I’m with Mike! I, too, am ready to head back to my mountains. There are hollies in Michigan (actually even a town named Holly), but I’ve yet to see one like I’m used to. None with red berries. Any that have had berries have had black ones. Not very Christmasy. I do miss seeing those red berries – along with so many things. One bright spot – more likely to have a “white” Christmas (probably not this year, though).

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 11:23 am

    I don’t think there’s any holly
    on our property. But I see lots
    of it when deer hunting on Choga.
    When I was a young boy we use to
    hunt that area alot and we’d have
    to go through some grassy fields
    to get into the higher mountains.
    Almost every other tree or bush
    was a holly just beginning to show
    its beauty…Ken

  • Reply
    Dale Anderson
    December 21, 2011 at 11:04 am

    Holly is regarded by woodturners as good wood for turning bowls, etc. Also used in segmented bowls for contrast with darker woods.

  • Reply
    Ethelene Jones
    December 21, 2011 at 10:39 am

    Tipper, I, too, adore the holly and its bright berries near Christmastime. We had holly trees on our farm at Choestoe, Union County, in N. GA where I grew up. We used to “string” (thread up) the berries to help decorate our Christmas tree! When Grover and I bought our place in Epworth, GA (still N. GA), we had holly trees on our property! And then, to my delight, when I bought this place in middle Georgia at Milledgeville, the back yard was graced with a holly tree! It’s berries are bright as I write and cheer me on this gray-clad day! I like the English carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” the version of the traditional carol which is given here by Cecil J. Sharp (not the author, the arranger and collector):
    “The holly and the ivy,
    When they are both full grown,
    Of all the trees are in the wood,
    The holly bears the crown.
    “The rising of the sun
    And the running of the deer,
    The playing of the merry organ,
    Sweet singing of the choir.
    “The holly bears a blossom
    As white as lily flow’r,
    And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
    To be our sweet Savior. (Chorus)
    “The holly bears a berry
    As red as any blood,
    And Mary bore sweet Jesus Christ
    To do poor sinners good.” (Chorus)
    May you have a “berry bright” Christnas!

  • Reply
    Pat in east TN
    December 21, 2011 at 10:38 am

    When we lived in western NC on our farm we only had 2 holly trees on our 21 acres, and they weren’t even near each other.
    Here in east TN I haven’t found any in the woods that surround us that I walk frequently, or on our land.

  • Reply
    Lonnie L. Dockery
    December 21, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I’ve got a big one with lots of berries in the back yard. One of my favorites. I always intend to cut some limbs and decorate the porch posts with them but seldom get around to actually doing it.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 10:16 am

    We have Holly here in WV. but do not not see it often

  • Reply
    Uncle Al
    December 21, 2011 at 9:50 am

    We have a number of holly’s on our property. Only a few are are larger though. Even the smaller ones are nice however.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 9:46 am

    Jim-I should have noted-the photo is of the 3rd holly from my post-the one growing close to the fence line.
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 9:43 am

    I live in Lousiana and we have hollies here. We don’t have any in our yard, but I usually send my husband out in the woods to gather some holly and mistletoe to decorate with at Christmas. My grandma and grandpa lived in a great big white house on top of a hill when I was little girl. There were two huge holly trees at the end of the drive way. Everytime I see holly I think about them and the good times we had visiting them.

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

    Tipper—Hollies are common place pretty much all over the Southeast, or at least in the areas where I have hunted. Where was the photo you used taken? The picture looks suspiciously like one of the domesticated hollies which always bear berries. Not all wild hollies do. Just like persimmons, hollies are one of the relatively few species of trees which have distinct sexes. Old-timers called them “he hollies” (no berries) and “she hollies” (those which bear berries). Ask Pap. I bet he’ll be familiar with those distinctions. Incidentally, two of the biggest he hollies I have ever seen are in Bryson City. One grew (I presume it still does) on the hillside below my boyhood home. Since Don lives there now, I’m sure he’ll know whether it is still there. The second one grows on Bryson Island, which is located just upstream from downtown Bryson City and where a number of really big trees grow.
    I don’t know of many uses for holly wood, although they no doubt exist. The only one which comes immediately to mind is for use in crafting strikers for frictions calls (made of slate) for turkey hunting. Holly produces a fine sound.

  • Reply
    B. Ruth
    December 21, 2011 at 9:30 am

    We now have a huge Holly tree…We didn’t have a Holly on our place. Years ago we moved tiny ones from an area near here that was being bulldozed to make a big ball park…we wanted to make sure we got a males and females trees…My husband planted them hether and yon in and around the woods what we thought would be more of a natural habitat…only one was planted in the back of the yard edged by the woods….The one in the yard grew and grew but no red berries…We would hunt where he thought he planted the others…no luck…We have assumed the others died…and the only survivor the one in the backyard…the one we thought wouldn’t make it…It still doesn’t have red berries..but we love it just the same and hope one day a bird will pass leaving us some seed that will into a female tree so we will have a tree with red Holly berries…I still use a few of the branches..just add some tiny artifical red berries…
    One of my favorite decorations for Christmas is Ground Pine…It was on the endangered species here years ago and we had a very large patch under our stand of pines that were planted for lumber…I think it is one of the most beautiful little plants…
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    barbara Gantt
    December 21, 2011 at 9:26 am

    I miss the Holly trees . None in Vermont like grew in NC. You see small ones for sell sometimes at Home Depots or Walmart garden centers. I have never bought one as I dont think that it would live here. My Daddy loved the Holly tree, he had some but my Grandma had huge ones. We would always cut some to have inside for Christmas. Just thinking about them makes me homesick for NC, Barbara

  • Reply
    Kathy Ferrell
    December 21, 2011 at 9:24 am

    We’ve got a few nearby, but none on my property. You’re right, I never thought about it, but when I was a kid I always assumed that people everywhere got to have holly trees around them all the time. Mistletoe, too. We are lucky in our mountains. Nice post!

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I had forgotten about blowing the Holly leaves to make them twirl. Thanks Ron for awakening a memory.
    I’ll show my grandsons this weekend.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 8:54 am

    I am blessed to have a holly bush that I have left go wild in front of the cabin and use many of its branches of glossy leaves and its needle-spiked edges to decorate with this time of year.

  • Reply
    Rick Kratzke
    December 21, 2011 at 8:35 am

    Mom always had holly bushes growing outside of her house and they are always pretty to look at especially when the song birds would sit in there and sing.

  • Reply
    December 21, 2011 at 8:30 am

    we have no holly trees here, we do have some little holly bushes in some of the landscape, like ground cover, but no trees. i don’t think i have ever seen a holly tree. i looked on the map and where we live is below the line in Flordia, but is shows GA and KY and i did not see them there either.

  • Reply
    Ron Banks
    December 21, 2011 at 8:27 am

    I have a couple around my house as well as ornamental holly shrubs that are loaded down with red berries. When I was still a lad I would take a fallen holly leaf and hold it by the stickers between index finger and thumb. By holding it ever so lightly and blowing on it,it would make a cool little whirly gig.
    Now, be prepared to draw blood a few times before you find the right touch! It’s amazing what a country boy can find to amuse himself!
    Merry Christmas to you and yours!

  • Reply
    dolores barton
    December 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Here in the foothills I have some wild holly (as I call it) growing in the natural parts we have not developed. Every so often I find a holly invading my gardens. I love to see them when they develop the red berries at this time of the year. Some of the birds, especially the cardinals, really have a feast. Happy Holly Enjoyment Day!

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 21, 2011 at 8:24 am

    Unfortunately, South Florida is almost like a foreign country biologically, except for squirrels, possums, raccoons and lately, black bears. No holly here that I have ever seen. We have different oak trees, no maples or nut trees or other hardwoods. We have lots of palms.
    Ready to head back to the mountains…

  • Reply
    Canned Quilter
    December 21, 2011 at 7:47 am

    I remember as a kid the big Holly tree in our yard in Louisiana. However in my 14 years here in Missouri I have never seen a Holly tree.

  • Reply
    Mary Shipman
    December 21, 2011 at 7:44 am

    When we lived in New Hampshire, there was holly in a lot of places. In Oklahoma, there was lots of mistletoe in the trees. Neither seem to grow here in these Missouri hills, I an so glad I have been able to see them and enjoy the glory as they grew as well as having them for natural decorations.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 21, 2011 at 7:42 am

    Wonder why they called it white holly. All I have seen is red.
    Yes, it is nice to see the holly bushes this time of year Like natures decoration for the season.
    I’ll see you this afternoon!

  • Reply
    Bernadette B
    December 21, 2011 at 7:40 am

    I love holly trees. We have two “holly bushes” in our front yard and they are sharing their beautiful red berries with us now. We live in south central Pennsylvania , a wonderful place to live.

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 21, 2011 at 6:03 am

    Here Just East of Heaven hollies proliferate. I have one in my yard that I try to keep pruned in a ball shape. Now that’s a painful undertaking. Another is too close to the front of my house. I keep cutting it down. It keeps growing back. The woods around here are full of them. They are tough little trees. Snow don’t break ’em. Insects don’t eat ’em. Animals don’t bother ’em and kids don’t climb ’em. They just stand there waiting for someone to admire them.

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