Old Wisdom, you know it my friends. 'Red sky at night, shepherd's delight...' kind of thing, and so on.
This year, everywhere I see Holly, I see bright red berries, and lots of them. You all know what that means, a cold, cold winter's a-comin'.
Of course, I can't be seeing Holly berries on all Holly trees and bushes, because there are female and male plants and of course, only the females bear fruit.
I've noticed that quite often, people confuse Oregon Grape with Holly, as the leaves are a little bit alike. But the fruit of the Oregon Grape, or Mahonia, are dark blue, bitter, but edible, the berries of the Holly are bitter, but inedible, also red, of course they are unmistakenly red.
There is a small area of Holly in the Delta Nature Reserve. I find it interesting that this plant, holy tree of the Celts, so often gets into the forested area of bogs, it seems to find a quiet little corner and persuade some bird or small mammal to poop its seeds out there.
To Druids, the tree is sacred. I wonder whether the toxicants found in its berries were used ceremonially, to induce a shamanistic state, as was Fly Agaric, the red and white spotted mushrooms we know as Amanita Muscaria.
The leaves, on the other hand, are used medicinally for a number of respiratory ailments and rheumatism.
Holly traditionally wards off mischievous spirits, although between the winter solstice and the Celtic festival of Imbolc at the beginning of February, you should take Holly into the house to shelter elves and faeries, who will be kind to humans at this time of year. Be sure to take it out by the last night of January however, or no good will come of it!
You heard it here.
Just don't tell anyone you heard it here.