October 18, 2010. 1:30 pm. Sunny
I’ve been pondering our mission to become friends with some aspect of the Crum woods, trying to figure out a part of it that may pique my interests. It was only a minor curiosity that got me doing some light research on holly trees. There had to be something to them, I thought—people don’t just get together and form “Holly Society of America, Inc.” if the plant isn’t worth writing home about.
Turns out, holly is pretty interesting stuff. I had always known the berries were poisonous (even though they look pretty appetizing—I’m jealous of the birds) but it never occurred to me that the tree’s leaves may have medicinal uses. Tea made from holly leaves has a long history of use as a diuretic and ritual concoction, which is probably due to the caffeine that occurs naturally in many species. For instance, yerba mate—that herbal tea with a high caffeine content that new-age marketing would have you believe would do everything from decrease your age by 10 years to bring you inner peace—is a type of holly native to South America.
I decided to do my observing in the holly garden next to Crumhenge this week. I’m not sure what to say that I didn’t already say in class, but I’ll go over some particularly interesting bits:
Despite their thorny appearance, holly plants are actually a shelter for birds and smaller mammals. Whenever I would approach one of Crumhenge’s many groups of small birds (finches, perhaps? I couldn’t get a good look), they would rise up in unison and siphon themselves through gaps in the holly’s protective outer layer of leaves and perch in its relatively bare center.
Hollies can vary wildly in appearance as well. The berries can range from red, to black, to a deep, vibrant yellow.
One particularly beautiful leaf pattern exists in the sun-bleached outer edges of the aptly-named Sunny Forster. I say sun-bleached because the leaves that fell in the shadows of the larger holly plants didn’t exhibit this sunburst pattern.
This following thought is pretty funny to me–I’m leaving it out of my story because I doubt it will be to anyone else, but, I was really into heavy metal music in junior high. As I spent time among the holly trees, I started getting the idea that holly is what you would get if you gave a couple metal-heads god powers and told them, “Make a tree.” It’d go something like:
“Well, dude, our tree has gotta be evergreen so it can survive the harshest of winters…and flexible, to survive the deadliest of storms”
“Hell yeah! And its leaves need to be, like…covered in spikes, or something!”
“Yeah, man, and it needs to be full of pretty, bright red berries!”
“Wait, uh, what? Why pretty berries?”
“CAUSE THEYRE FULL OF POISON, MANNNN!! So epic.”
“Oh dude, brutal! BRUTAL!”
Unrelated: here is a picture of the most visible spider web I’ve ever seen. It’s not the best, composition wise, but I’m happy I got to take it: