Tuesday, December 16, 2008

English Holly

EN route to a park on foot, we spotted many holly bushes and trees. In residential gardens, in vacant spaces, in the woods, we noticed that of the 50-odd instances of holly we passed, only a single bush bore berries. This of course led our inquisitive minds to wonder why. Here is some of what we discovered:

* Although mature in late autumn, the berries are very bitter so are rarely touched by birds until late winter after frost has made them softer and more palatable. So maybe it wasn't cold enough...? Our hats, scarves and gloves indicated that this was unlikely.
* Hollies are dioecious. To the non-botanists among us, this means that you need both a male and a female plant for reproduction to work. So the berryless plants we saw could have been all male, or all female with no male in the vicinity to pollinate them.
* A poor show of berries can also be due to cold winds and wet periods during flowering, which deter insects from pollinating the plants. (Wind and rain in England? How could that be?)
* Of course, the birds could just be really hungry.

Whatever the cause, I was relieved to see plenty of berries on another walk, so all is not lost.

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