The holly or kermes oak is a species that resembles common oak. In Crete it is met in all mountainous regions and is one of the most common trees. The oaks are met in all ranges of Crete, as they can grow in rocky and dry soils and withstand the extreme weather conditions there. Indeed, the beautiful oak forest of Rouvas is regarded as the largest grove of oaks in Europe.
The holly tree develops initially as a bush (called katsoprino in Greek) and reaches a height of 2m, while rarely they grow as trees up to 15m high. It has many branches and dense foliage. Its leaves are heart shaped, hard, fluffy, spiky, dark green on both sides and 1.5-4cm long. Indeed, the Cretans tell that hollies offer the “thickest” shadow of all trees. Its acorn is large, resembling a thorny cup.
The trunk is very hard, heavy and durable, while its roots penetrate deeply into the ground. The tannin found in the trunk and roots is used in tanning (hardening of leathers), ink production, dyeing and in medicine. The holly is a main food for goats, which are the main reason for not growing too high.