Characteristics of Holly Oak Tree (Quercus ilex) in the Wild

Quercus ilex
Holly oak or Holm oak (Quercus ilex) is a species of large, evergreen oak native to the Mediterranean region. His name “holm” comes from the ancient name for holly. Holly oak is a member of the genus Cerris, with acorns maturing in the summer.

The foliage’s resemblance to European Holly (Ilex aquifolium) has caused much confusion. The name ilex was originally the classic Latin name for the Holm oak but was later adopted as the botanical genus name for hollies.

Holly oak is registered as an invasive species in the UK. Usually, the tree cannot withstand severe frosts, which would prevent it from spreading northward, but with climate change, it has managed to penetrate and establish itself in areas north of its original range.

The largest population of Holly oak trees in Northern Europe is in and around St. Boniface Down on the Isle of Wight and on to the neighboring town of Ventnor, a city known for its naturally warmer microclimate, and has been shown to tolerate strong winds.

Holly oak grows in pristine stands or mixed forests in the Mediterranean at low or moderate elevations. Holly oak is very common in Greece and then into certain parts of the Iberian Peninsula, where it mixes with Quercus rotundifolia along the northern Mediterranean coastal belt.


The TROBI, the Champion in Gloucestershire, measured a trunk circumference of 8.3 meters at 1.2 meters above the ground in 1993.

Another tree is in the Courtown House, Wexford, Ireland, it is said that the holly oak tree was planted in 1648. After being measured in 2010, its height is 20 meters and its canopy spread is 43 meters.

A 500-year-old ancient holly oak tree is also at Fulham Palace, London, and is listed as one of the Great Trees of London.

Spain’s oldest holly oak “Encina Tres Patas de Mendaza” located in Navarre, is said to be 1,000 to 1,200 years old.

Another old holly oak in Milo, Sicily, is thought to be 700 years old, while a small population on the slopes of the northern village of Wardija in Malta is said to be between 500 and 1,000 years old.


Characteristics of Holly Oak Leaf

Quercus ilex Leaf

The shape of the leaves is very variable, most often narrow oval or ovoid-lanceolate, 4-8 cm long, 1-2.5 cm wide, rounded or broadly tapered at the base, and sometimes has margins around the edges (usually on trees). young ones).

When the tree is very young, both leaf surfaces are covered with whitish feathers, which soon fall entirely from the upper surface leaving it a dark glossy green. While on the underside it turns gray or yellow-brown, with petioles 3-16 mm long.


Characteristics of Holly Oak Flower

Quercus ilex Flower

Holly oak, like other species of the genus Quercus, is a monoecious plant. Although it shows a certain predisposition to dioecia (legs with many male or female flowers).

Male flowers appear on catkins, dense, clustered in twigs, yellowish, then orange, and finally brown at maturity.

The flowers occur throughout the corolla, although they appear more often on the underside, and in some specimens produce more male flowers than female flowers, thus not producing much fruit.


Characteristics of Holly Oak Fruit

Quercus ilex Fruit

The fruit is produced one to three together on short downy stalks. The fruit is 12-18 mm long, cups with downy scales.


Characteristics of Holly Oak Tree

Quercus ilex Tree

Holly oak grows as a large tree, reaching 20-25 meters in height in favorable places. The crown is large and the branches are densely leafy that are irregularly transverse, the terminal part of the branches is usually pendulous in old trees. The stems are sometimes more than 6 meters in diameter.

It is hardwood and has been used since ancient times for general construction purposes such as the manufacture of pillars, tool handles, beams, carts, small boats, and wine barrels. Sometimes the wood is also used to make fences and firewood.


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