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Common Holy (Ilex aquifolium)

Common Holy is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to Europe and western Asia. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, and has been introduced to North America as an ornamental species. However, common holy is considered an invasive species in some areas of North America, particularly in the Pacific Northwest, where it can grow in dense stands and outcompete native vegetation.

Common holy is able to invade a variety of habitats, including forests, woodlands, and riparian areas. It is able to tolerate a wide range of soil types and light conditions, and can grow in both sun and shade. The plant produces a large number of seeds, which can be dispersed by birds and other animals, further aiding its spread.

Invasive species like common holy can have negative impacts on native ecosystems, including reducing biodiversity and altering nutrient cycling. To address the issue of invasive species in North America, various organizations and government agencies have implemented management strategies, such as herbicide treatment and mechanical removal, to control the spread of common holy and other invasive plants.

Is Holy edible?

Common Holly is not commonly consumed as a food source, as the berries are toxic to humans if ingested in large quantities. The bright red berries of the plant contain ilex vomitoria, a chemical that can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea if consumed in large amounts. While some small birds and mammals are able to consume the berries safely, it is not recommended for human consumption.

However, common holly has been used for medicinal purposes in some cultures. Extracts from the leaves and berries have been used to treat a variety of ailments, including fevers, arthritis, and bronchitis. In traditional medicine, the plant has also been used as a diuretic, laxative, and stimulant.

It is important to note that consuming common holly or any plant for medicinal purposes should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional, as it can interact with other medications and may have potential side effects.


Hultine, K.R. and A.L. Lalasz. 2011. Ilex aquifolium. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory. Available: [2023, April 17].

Invasive Plant Atlas of the United States. (n.d.). Ilex aquifolium. Retrieved April 17, 2023, from

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