Holly's showy display foretells a long, hard winter

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The Independent Online
Much of Britain is experiencing a bumper crop of holly berries following two consecutive hot, dry summers.

The berries are at their best at the moment. The profuse display is said to be the sign of a hard winter to come, although no one has a convincing explanation for how the plant can prophesy.

John Lanyon, who looks after part of the national collection of holly varieties at the Royal Horticultural Society's Rosemoor, in north Devon, said: "They look at their best at the moment, but by Christmas most of the berries will have been eaten by birds.

"If you want a good display for Christmas cut the sprigs off now and keep them dipped in water in a cool place."

The hot summer of 1995 enabled the hollies to build up their food stores and set plenty of flowers in spring this year.

Then a second hot, dry summer this year has served to ripen them well and turn them deep red, according to Mr Lanyon.

Yesterday the Forestry Commission said that 1996 had been an excellent year all round for the fruits, nuts and berries of trees.

The one exception is the oak, which produced a huge crop of acorns last year but a much smaller one in 1996.