Our nature walk this week consisted of a tromp through a snowy forested mountain near our home. While the trails in these woods are well established, I am always careful to make sure the GPS on my phone is on. Being such as beginner hiker, I really don’t want to end up on the news or spend a cold night on the mountain.
On our adventure, what jumped out at us was a number of holly bushes and trees we saw along the trail. My interest was piqued, and I resolved to look them up when I got home.
When I think holly, I usually think Christmas, certainly not invasive series, but this was certainly the case from my internet search. Though not surprisingly, it was sobering considering how many we had seen along the trail.
In my research, I learned that English holly (this is what I am guessing it to be) is native to Europe, but grown ornamentally in North America…basically, plant gone wild. The threat to our native species here in BC is that it grows densely and dominates the forest floor preventing our native shrubs and plants from growing. It also apparently hogs a lot of water which in turn leaves less for our native plants and trees.
As with basically all botanical life I have encountered so far, holly has medicinal uses being used as a heart stimulant by the First Nations, as well as for cough, digestive issues and even jaundice (Note: This is novice information, please do not take as fact). The wood from a holly tree has a high shrinkage rate and is primarily used for inlay and decorative items.
However today with the subdued green and brown tones of the evergreen trees and the snow still clinging to the ground, the holly stood out like a sequined gown at a hoedown. It’s beautifully out-of-place in our temperate forest; yet, I enjoyed the showiness of its appearance in spite of its evil tendencies towards our poor native species.
On the way back, fog started to settle on the ground, not enough to obstruct our vision, but enough to give the mountain trail a mysterious feel. With the snow on the ground and the holly around us, it felt like Narnia. One step through the wardrobe and we were home for cocoa.