Why does holly have prickles? Activities and investigations


Why does holly have prickles? In the New Forest, ponies graze holly eagerly, prickles no problem. They even bite off branches, let the leaves go soft for a few days then come back and munch them. The foresters pollard holly as a winter food for ponies.

Is spikiness something to do with being evergreen? Mahonia shrubs are also evergreen, and area also spiky. Is spikiness to prevent slugs eating the holly? Slugs do not eat whole holly leaves but will if the prickles are cut off.

How many prickles on a holly leaf? Well that’s easy – it’s about seven isn’t it, with a point at the top and three spikes either side!

This simple thought can lead you into a number of useful activities with young pupils.

This resource asks pupils to investigate the prickles on holly.

Download the teacher notes from the link on the right.

Watch the video demo - Investigating adaptation using holly leaves

This video demo, originally developed for KS3, introduces the potential for an extension or challenge activity focusing on adaptation.

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