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Holly thrives as symbol of season after more than 2,000 years
Holly thrives as symbol of season after more than 2,000 years

It has, to paraphrase an old English carol, prickles as sharp as thorns, bark as bitter as gall and berries as bright as life-giving blood. Friends and loved ones gathering on Christmas will see it in wreaths and on mantels, its image on cards, on stockings and on presents under the tree. And as it has done every winter since long before the Roman Conquest, the plant genus known as Ilex, or holly, will be working its green-and-red magic, evoking feelings linked to the Christian tradition and spreading general holiday cheer. "There's something magical about holly, especially this time of year," says William N. (Bill) Kuhl, an expert on the species who has done his part to...

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