To add variety to the blog and to offer a fresh perspective from our visitors, we are inviting guest bloggers to write posts describing their visits and thoughts while at the Reserve. The guest blog is brought to you by Rebecca Snow about one of our native evergreens that can be found at the Reserve. Enjoy! (Maggie Pletta, DNERR Education Coordinator & Blog Editor)
The American Holly
Spring has definitely sprung and the forest is beginning to awaken! If you are like me, the warmer weather, singing birds and blooming flowers put you in a great mood. BUT, it isn’t spring quite yet so before we miss our opportunity to see it in its full glory, let’s learn a little bit about our state tree, the American holly. As soon as the surrounding trees begin to leaf out, the hollies, and other evergreens, tend to fade in to the background until fall. Despite its prickly leaves, this is one interesting tree and it’s worth a closer look.
The American holly is a broadleaf evergreen, which means that it does not have needles and holds its leaves through winter. Those leaves have to have a very thick “skin” (or cuticle in plant language) to survive the cold temperatures and winds during the winter and the spines on the sides of the leaves serve as a great deterrent to anyone considering munching on them. Holly trees are most famous for their bright red berries. Despite that, have you ever noticed that only SOME trees have them? It might be that the birds have already feasted at the berry buffet, but the real reason why not all hollies have berries is because they are dioecious. That means that there are “boy trees” and “girl trees.” The American holly flowers in the late spring and although you probably wouldn’t even notice their small white flowers, they are an important food source for bees. Pollinators are essential to the formation of those beautiful berries we love to see in our holiday wreaths because they carry the pollen from the male plant to the female plant on their legs and bodies.
Because the berries are such a vibrant red, they may be appealing to toddlers who like to taste test everything around them. Holly berries are toxic to humans though, so make sure you instill in them from a very young age not to put any berries found outside in their mouth unless you give it to them. Even though we can’t consume the fruit of the American holly, many other creatures can, including deer and many species of birds so these trees serve as an importance food source during the winter. Head over to the Reserve and see if you can spot some American hollies!
Text & Photos Provided By Rebecca Snow
Rebecca is a Dover mom and self-described naturalist with a lifelong passion for the outdoors. Her mission is to encourage all families to explore, experience and learn while appreciating the beauty what would normally be overlooked. To read more about her and her families nature experiences outdoors check out her personal blog at http://thebuckit.blogspot.com/