Appalachia Christmas

He Holly She Holly

He holly she holly

he holly noun The male of the American holly tree (Ilex opaca), which bears no berries. Cf she holly.

1957 Parris My Mts 248 Guess you didn’t know there was he-holly and she-holly. Well, there is. Only she-holly has berries. 1964 Reynolds Born of Mts 84 In North Carolina even the holly is given sex, there being a He Holly and a She Holly, for how else could the last-named have berries, the other having none. 1995 Montgomery Coll. (Cardwell, Ledford, Norris, Oliver).



Source: “Dictionary: Southern Appalachian English.” Dictionary: Southern Appalachian English. N.p., n.d. Web. 17 Dec. 2013. <>.

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  • Reply
    December 20, 2013 at 6:38 pm

    Dee-I checked in my Dictionary of Smoky Mountain English-and youre right about the balsams : )
    Merry Christmas!
    Blind Pig The Acorn
    Celebrating and Preserving the
    Culture of Appalachia

  • Reply
    Suzi Phillips
    December 18, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    While we were in Webster County, WV last summer, we ran across the most enormous holly tree in full bloom. Who knew holly blossoms smelled so devine?

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 18, 2013 at 9:59 pm

    What’s a body to do?
    I spent a many a fruitless evening waiting at the foot of a persimmon to no avail. I guess I should have of sexed them before I wasted so much time and effort.

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    I have learned about the Holly – he and she – and learned that there are other trees and plants must have both sexes within a distance in order for the ‘she’ to produce seeds, berries, etc. It’s amazing how I never knew any of that until I retired and got into gardening and a bit of landscaping. Fun learning!

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    I’m new to the study of plants, but- did I hear that the fir is a she- Balsam and the spruce a he- Balsam?

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 18, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Tipper–Ken and B. Ruth earn full marks as savvy mountain folks closely rooted to the earth. Only female persimmons bear fruit. I’ve got some Asian ones which had fruit for the first time this year. They are big as a good-sized tomato and seedless. You’ve got to let them get soft to the point of mushiness before eating them, but I can’t tell the difference, taste-wise, between them and ours. One thing for sure, you can make a pudding with four or five of them and get the pulp in a hurry, whereas the same chore with wild ‘simmons is an arduous undertaking.
    I’m eagerly looking forward to the time when the trees (they are only seven or so feet tall) really start bearing in earnest. That aren’t a lot of sweets better than a properly made persimmon pudding.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 18, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Jim mentioned another he and she
    fruit tree of the Mountains. But
    you’d better not try to eat of
    the Persimmon tree until after a
    good Frost…Ken

  • Reply
    Ken Roper
    December 18, 2013 at 10:35 am

    I remember deer hunting over in
    Choga when I was a teenager. And
    there was this huge field of holly
    you had to go thru before hitting
    the Mountains. It was there where
    I noticed countless trees of holly
    with all the red berries, such a
    beautiful sight to behold.
    Thanks for sharing the information
    about He and She hollies, I didn’t
    know that…Ken

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 10:12 am

    The he-/she- character of holly is much appreciated;the same can be said for papaya and squash and so many other fruits,vegetables, and flowering plants. But don’t ask a Texan about the he-/she- character of ash juniper! You may get more than an ear full!!

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 9:10 am

    Now I know why my holly tree has no berries, is not very attractive and requires too much maintenance. I planted it in a small area between the sidewalk and the garage as it was not suppose to grow any higher than 6-8 feet. I have to trim it several times during the growing season to keep it off the walkway and and electrical lines.

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Males are prettier most of the time in nature. For example Cardinals, Mallard Ducks, and many others. It is good to know that Holly is much like humans…the female is prettier:)

  • Reply
    steve in tn
    December 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

    as usual…she is prettier and more interesting.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    December 18, 2013 at 8:35 am

    I have me a big ole “Holm Oak” aka Holly, right cheer in the back yard…He is adorned with nothing except his purty green leaves…
    Another prickly green leafed shrub that I love is the native
    “Mahonia”..Beautiful misty green leaves, yeller flowers, light grape colored berries to follow…I need to dig up some more of these fellers, from my son’s woods!
    We borrowed some 4 or 5 Holly trees several years ago, when a bulldozer was demolishing shrubs, trees in a lowland flat area to make way for a community ballpark. The better half dug up very small ones in hopes they would live and in hopes of getting a she-holly.. Only one made it, he planted them scattered around in the woods except this one in the back yard. That is the one he thought would die…go figure! It has grown into a beauty..He shows off eventhough he doesn’t have a single solitary berry…So nary another “Holly” he or she or it, has shown up in our woods…
    Someday we hope one will, brought in by the birds, so we have some red berries somewhere.
    I just cut some branches and wire on some red berry picks…I don’t think he likes that much, ’cause he gives me a “real stick” if I don’t hold the branch just right!
    He also makes a handy dandy hiding place for the faieries! The Ivy is nearby too and they get along great!
    Thanks Tipper,

  • Reply
    Jim Casada
    December 18, 2013 at 8:32 am

    Tipper–Here’s a little test for your readers. There’s another tree found widely in the mountains which comes in male and female forms. Like the holly, only the female form bears fruit. Who knows what it is?
    Hint: Think of ‘possums and ‘coons.
    Jim Casada

  • Reply
    Janet Smart
    December 18, 2013 at 8:17 am

    That is true, and I am happy to say that in addition to having two he hollies in my yard, I also have a beautiful she holly. But, I do believe for the she hollies to have beautiful red berries there has to be a male holly nearby. :o) I just posted on my blog about trimming my holly to decorate with.

  • Reply
    Mike McLain
    December 18, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Didn’t know that one. I knew there were plants that had “gender”, but didn’t know that holly was one of them. My wife wants holly on our place when we build it next year, so I need to figure out how you tell the gender when there are no berries…

  • Reply
    Eva Nell Mull Wike, Ph.D.
    December 18, 2013 at 7:54 am

    Tipper: I must have a mixed up HOLLY type. They are beautiful hollies but have only a few berries. Maybe they are too close together or shaded by other trees. But I still snip a few cuttings and decorate in the house – just like my Mama use to do. AND I also use those beautiful Christmas Cards to decorate around the door frames – just like Mama did – except we get lots more cards today than back then!
    I hope you and your family are well and happy for the Christmas Season!
    Eva Nell

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    December 18, 2013 at 7:48 am

    I have a She Holly in my yard. I call her Holly Holy after the Neil Diamond song from back when I was still alive. Last year she was covered in bright red berries. This year None!! What’s up with that?

  • Reply
    Bob Aufdemberge
    December 18, 2013 at 7:47 am

    That holds true for other types of trees as well, but I can’t think of any that get called “he and she”.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    December 18, 2013 at 7:42 am

    So, it’s the girls that make it pretty and Christmasie!

  • Reply
    December 18, 2013 at 7:41 am

    When I was studying botany, I learned the terms “monoecious” (meaning “one house”) for plants that have both reproductive parts on one plant and “dioecious” (“two houses”) for the ones like holly that have the male and female parts on two separate plants. The image in my mind of the males and females sharing one house or living independently in two houses somehow helped me memorize the different lists. But of course 99% of that is long gone while my head is now filled up with things like have I closed the hen house for the night, and where the heck did I leave my glasses?

  • Reply
    Don Casada
    December 18, 2013 at 7:35 am

    We’re not alone in referring to he and she hollies. The Chieftans sing a Christmas song “Oh The Holly She Bears a Berry” about a she holly that has white, green, and red berries which I really like:
    That song tends to stick with you, and speaking of sticking, I’m reminded of it every time I get the tender caress of a holly leaf while bushwhacking this time of year.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Paul
    December 18, 2013 at 7:10 am

    As usual the female is the prettiest.

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