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A small evergreen tree without any down; branchlets stout, silvery grey, lustrous. Leaves oblong inclining to elliptic or ovate, 5 to 9 in. long, 2 to 21⁄2 in. wide, slender-pointed, tapered at the base, armed at the edges with small spine-tipped teeth, rarely almost entire, thick and rather rigid, dark green above, midrib pale green, prominent; stalk 3⁄4 to 1 in. long, purplish. Flowers clustered scarcely stalked. Fruits bright red, roundish oval, 3⁄8 in. long, each containing a single stone made up of four fused nutlets.
Native of the E. Himalaya at 6,000 to 8,000 ft. In a small or seedling state it is quite distinct, the leaf-margins being wavy and formidably armed with numerous spiny teeth 1⁄4 to 1⁄3 in. long, pointing different ways. It is unfortunate that this splendid holly can only be grown in the milder parts of the British Isles. At Kew it has to be given the protection of a cold greenhouse. There are two examples at Caerhays in Cornwall, and it received an Award of Merit when shown from there on 25 February, 1964.
It is unfortunate that the name I. insignis given to this species by the younger Hooker is invalid, having been used earlier by Heer for a fossil species.
The specimens at Caerhays, Cornwall, measure 58 × 41⁄4 ft and 40 × 51⁄4 ft (1984).