Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Ilex aquifolium L.

Frost hardy, usually erect, dense, pyramidal or oblong, evergreen shrub or tree, with glossy, dark green, leaves with spine-toothed or spiny margins, and long-lasting red, orange or yellow berries in autumn and winter.  To 25m.  [RHSE, Hortus, Hilliers’].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Although not a native, it has been cultivated in England since ancient times.  ‘The Holly-Tree.  Aquifolium.  This tree grows to be pretty large; the leaves are a deep green, the flowers yellowish, and the berries red.  It grows wild in the warm countries, and flowers in the spring.  From this tree is made our bird-lime, which is a powerful attractive and good to ripen hard tumours & swellings; & is an ingredient of ye Emplastrum Diachilon magnum.’  [Blackwell pl.205/1737].

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [T.569/1843].


Ilex aquifolium Lour. (1790) = Ilex loureirei Steud. From China

Ilex aquifolium Marsh. = Ilex quercifolia Meerb.

Bird lime was an important aspect of hunting in European country communities.  It is made from a variety of plant material depending on region, but in England it was customarily made from the pounded and fermented bark of the holly tree.  This use is unlikely to have been the reason for its introduction by William Macarthur but it cannot be discounted.

Published Mar 18, 2009 - 04:46 PM | Last updated Mar 21, 2010 - 04:51 PM

Illustrated are the glossy, dark green, spiny leaves, and red berries.  Blackwell pl.205, 1737.

Ilex aquifolium L. | Blackwell pl.205/1737 | BHL

Family Aquifoliaceae
Region of origin

Europe, north Africa, west Asia

Common Name

Common holly, English holly

Name in the Camden Park Record

Ilex aquifolium - Holly 

Confidence level high