A sacred tree that’s one of the few evergreen oaks in Britain.
The evergreen holm oak, originally from the Mediterranean, is also known as ‘holly oak’ because of its distinctive spiny leaves. Holm is an old word for holly.
Birds nest in cracks and crevices in the branches, protected by the year-round leafy canopy. The trees’ abundant yellow catkins in early spring provide pollen for bees and other insects.
The holm oak produces distinctively pointed acorns in the autumn. In Spain and Portugal, the pigs grown for ‘iberico ham’ are fed on them. Holm oaks are also one of best trees to use in truffle orchards – pigs and dogs are used to sniff out the prized fungi that grow among the roots.
Holm oaks are considered by many to be sacred, and were planted in sacred places to keep away evil spirits. The ancient Greeks used the leaves to tell the future. The trees also symbolise strength and long life, and the wood is certainly very hard and strong. The Romans used it to make cartwheels, wagons and tools. It’s also a slow-burning firewood and used to make charcoal.