Yesterday we were out searching for ripe holly berries hoping that we hadn’t been beaten the birds and the Christmas wreath makers to it! Our purpose was to collect berries to grow from seed for our native woodland schemes. North Harris has very few trees of any kind and one of our aims is to create a network of native woodland running through the estate. Despite our remote location and hostile climate there are a number of tree species that are native to the area and at one time formed scrub woodland that covered large parts of Harris. However, as a result of grazing, burning and changes in the climate natural woodland is now restricted to a few pockets in gullies, on crags and islands that grazing animals cannot reach. It was these remnant patches of woodland that we were in search for along the shore of Loch Seaforth.
Finding Holly berries isn’t as easy as it sounds. Firstly, Holly trees are dioecious, meaning that there are separate male and female trees and only females produce berries. Secondly, as most Holly trees on Harris grow in gullies and on cliffs we had to find trees that were accessible and in addition to this, Hollies only produce a good berry crop every 2-3 years.
However, we were in luck as there appears to be a good crop of berries this year. We managed to find several accessible female trees with good numbers of berries. We’ve now sent these off to Alba Trees who will grow seedlings until they are ready to be planted at Molingeanais where we are planning of next woodland project.