Field of Science

Holly or Oak?

When you're in a new place you make some snap identifications, and sometimes they're right and sometimes they are wrong. This one was tricky because the first plant TPP saw was just a shrub. My initial guess was a holly; it just had the look of an evergreen shrub and the leaf was quite holly like, although some time ago TPP got quite a surprise when entering "holly" into the google search engine.  However a day later, there was the same leaf, but now it was on a tree that had a most decidedly oak look to it, and sure enough, there were little acorns forming. Little acorns, there can be little doubt of what you've got. Turns out this "resemblance" has been recognized for some time, so this tree is another iconic species of this Tuscan area, Quercus ilex, the holly oak, not the oak holly. It is an evergreen, a sort of local Tuscan live oak. You don't see a generic name (Ilex - holly) used as a specific epithet very often, but the International code of botanical nomenclature does say this is "legal".


Anonymous said...

Dearest Phactor,

i am glad you are enjoying your Italian soujourn - i am enjoying your posts.

Another holly-like oak that grows in the mediterranean and fooled me until I saw the acorns is Quercus coccifera.

The naming of holly and Quercus ilex is really the opposite of what you suggest. "ilex" is the ancient latin name for Q.ilex. (Modern italian "(Il)leccio" or "elche"). Holly acquired the name "Ilex" later because of the similarity of the leaves to that of the oak.

buone vacanze!

The Phytophactor said...

Many thanks for getting TPP turned around on the holly oak. And thanks for the tip about Q. coccifera - saw it yesterday, and knew it was an oak from the get go as a result.