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Holm sweet holm

Quercus ilex (holm oak)

The holm or holly oak is one of Fulham Palace’s most notable tree specimens. The much-loved giant still stands strong after around 500 years, very much living up to its reputation as one of the Great Trees of London. This tree is in the family Fagaceae, which is the same as beeches (Fagus species).

This species of oak is native to the Mediterranean region and has foliage resembling that of the common European holly (Ilex aquifolium), hence the use of the epithet Ilex as the tree’s species, and the common name.

Here at Fulham Palace, it’s a sight to behold all year round being evergreen, standing out amongst the surrounding trees in winter in all its glory.

Older Holm oak leaves have smooth edges whereas the younger leaves are spikey, and they are green all year round!

There’s nothing quite like it: its immense size and unique multi-stemmed form propped on supports (which remind me of walking sticks, emphasizing the age) give it real character. It looks like a wise old being who has seen so much change over hundreds of years.

Upon your first glance at this gem, you can immediately tell it’s something quite special: it is roped off to protect its ancient branches but also to protect the root system, as footfall compacts the soil which can prevent it from growing healthily.  The best way to take it all in is from afar!

It’s everyone’s responsibility to take care of our wonderful collection of trees at Fulham Palace, especially the holm oak, to be able to see them age on and evolve their legacies for future generations to love and learn from. You can pay our Great Tree a visit outside the southwestern corner of the walled garden!

Millie Woodley, garden apprentice