Holm Oak (Quercus ilex)
Small, elongated yellow catkins with both male and female flowers hanging off the tree.
After pollination by wind, female flowers develop into acorns, which are smaller and have a more pointed tip than those of English or sessile oaks. Young acorns are green and mature to a dark red-brown before falling.
WHERE TO FIND
Holm oak is a native to the Eastern Mediterranean but has been naturalised in the UK. It lends itself well to shaping and is found in parks and gardens.
Trees are resistant to salt-spray from the sea, and are often planted as a windbreak in coastal areas. However, they can’t stand freezing conditions and during severe winters they are prone to dying or losing their leaves, so are more common in the south of the UK.
VALUE TO WILDLIFE
Holm oak is not as valuable to wildlife as native English and sessile oaks, but its catkins provide a source of pollen for bees and other insects, and its dense, evergreen canopy offers year-round shelter for birds.
Holm oak timber is incredibly hard and strong. The Romans used the wood for making the wheels of carts and carriages, as well as for agricultural tools. Today it is sometimes used for firewood as it is slow and long lasting. Holm oak acorns are fed to pigs reared for Ibérico ham.
In addition to being planted as windbreaks along the sea coast because of their resistance to salt-spray, their ability to tolerate shade and air pollution makes them ideal as street trees and for planting in city parks.