Content highlight: Christmas/Common holly - Ilex aquifolium

Christmas Holidays are behind us, but why not extend a little bit of this wonderful feast atmosphere by presenting our new content highlight - holly? Did you know that tradition states that a sprig of holly placed inside the entry-way doorframe guards the home against lightning strikes? Or that holly was also revered by Celts, Romans and Germans as a symbol of eternal life?

Christmas holly is one of the symbols of Christmas. Christian folklore states that holly thorns represent Christ's crown of thorns, and the red berries his blood. Holly captures our attention with its prickly, waxy leaves and later, its bright red berries. Its home is western, central and southern Europe, northern Africa, Asia Minor and northern Iran. It is often planted as a decorative shrub in parks. From May through June it blooms with tiny white flowers. In the fall, these give rise to small red berries. The plant contains the alkaloid theobromine, as well as other substances like saponins and terpenoids.

Cases of poisoning occur mainly in children, from consuming the bright red berries. Symptoms are nausea, strong diarrhea and sleepiness. Initial symptoms can occur in children with the consumption of as few as two berries. A fatal dose for an adult is considered to be 20-30 berries. However, newer research suggests that even larger doses cause only vomiting and diarrhea.

We wish you a Happy New Year in 2013, and promise you to bring many more exiting stories from Natural History. Stay tuned! You can find more about Holly on BLE - Poisonous Nature!

Scratchpads developed and conceived by (alphabetical): Ed Baker, Katherine Bouton Alice Heaton Dimitris Koureas, Laurence Livermore, Dave Roberts, Simon Rycroft, Ben Scott, Vince Smith