How to grow the Holm Oak - Quercus ilex

The Holm oak (also commonly known as the 'Evergreen Oak') - Quercus ilex, is a large evergreen tree noted for its attractive, corrugated bark, and for its dark, glossy foliage which resemble the leaves of the common European holly. The Common name 'Holm' is the Old English word for holly and the species name 'ilex' is also the genus name for holly plants - though with a capital 'I'. To add yet another layer of history, 'ilex' was in fact the original, classical Latin name for the holm oak, until it was later adopted as botanical genus name for the hollies.

How to grow the Holm Oak - Quercus ilex
The wood of the Holm oak has proven to be both hard and tough, and has been used since ancient times for the construction purposes of pillars, tools, wagons, vessels, and wine casks. While the earliest records of Holm oaks being cultivated in England date from before the 16th Century, its mediterranean origins mean that its not inconceivable that it was brought into this country during the Roman conquest 43 - 410 AD.

Under favourable condition a Holm oak can be expected to achieve an approximate height of between 21–28 metres. Once mature it will form a rounded head of branches, the ends of which become increasingly pendulous with age.

The narrowly oval or ovate-lanceolate leathery leaves are approximately 4–8 cm long and 1.2–2.5 cm wide. When young, both surfaces of the leaves are clothed with whitish down, which falls away from the upper surface leaving it a dark glossy green.
If shaded, young leaves are often completely green and glabrous. They can be variable in both shape and size depending upon the age of the individual specimen, with entire (even and smooth) or toothed margins. Mature leaves are typically dark green above, with a greyish, downy or glabrous underside.

The blooms appear in the form of wind pollinated catkins. The female blooms are inconspicuous red spheres, while the yellow, male catkins hang off the tree in abundance in early spring. Once pollinated, 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.

The Holm oak will thrive in all classes of well-drained soil, and is an excellent choice for planting in coastal regions. However it is not advisable to plant in cooler, inland areas. It will perform best in a sunny position however it will tolerate partial shade. It responds well to clipping and can indeed be clipped to form a tall hedge. Leaf fall can occur in summer, but this is perfectly normal.

When grown as a hedge plant 70 cm apart and remove the growing points to encourage bushy growth.
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