Montag, 6. Februar 2012

Plant of the Day (February 6th, 2012) - Ilex aquifolium L.

Today's Plant of the Day is Ilex aquifolium L. from the Aquifoliaceae family. In Germany, this species is known as “Europäische Stechpalme” or “Gemeine Stechpalme” and in the English language as “Holly” or “European Holly”.

I. aquifolium - habitus
It's an evergreen shrub or tree, which depends on ecological factors like climate and soil.
As a shrub, I. aquifolium can reach height between 1 and 6 metres, while as tree heights between 10 and 15 metres.
The shiny leaves are dark-green and leathery. In order to protect its fruits, the lower leaves are sharp serrated and very piercing. The upper leaves are simple. So, the lower leaves protect the ripe fruits and buds against herbivores like deer or boars.
On the other hand, the upper regions of I. aquifolium are a very popular nesting site for small bird, because here their nests are protected against predators (e. g. Foxes or bobcats).

I. aquifolium is dioecious, so we have male and female individuals. The small flowers have five petals and five sepals (sometimes six). The petals are white, sometimes reddish. Flowering Time is between May and June.

I. aquifolium - berries & leaves

The ripe fruits are red berries. They are very poisonous and cause vomiting, kidney damage and cardiac arrhythmia. This also applies to the leaves. Fruit Ripening is from October.
 
I. aquifolium is native to the oceanic and temperate regions of Middle Europe like France, England and Western Germany.
So, it's a good indicator for the Atlantic climate. The species prefers fresh places with temperate winters and loamy, acid soils on sand or rock. It can be found as shrub in forests, because it's very tolerant towards shading.
However, many individuals are also planted in Parks or gardens.

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