Christmas plants at Rowallane Garden

Pine cone christmas decoration

Christmas time is often closely associated with particular plants, scents and traditions. Find out about some of the most iconic below.


Cinnamon is used as a spice in food and drinks, especially around Christmas time. It is obtained from the inner bark of two-year-old trees. Stems must be prepare straight after harvesting while the inner bark is still wet and processed by scraping off the outer layer, then beating the branch evenly with a hammer to loosen the contents which is pried off in long rolls.


Cloves are the aromatic flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae, an evergreen tree that grows up to 8–12 m tall. They are native to the Maluku Islands in Indonesia, and are commonly used as a spice.  Cloves were traded by merchant sailors during the Middle Ages in the profitable Indian Ocean trade.


Frankincense, is an aromatic resin used in incense and perfumes, obtained from four main tree species of the genus Boswellia. Resin is available in various grades depending on the time of harvesting and is hand-sorted for quality. Frankincense has been traded on the Arabian Peninsula and in North Africa for more than 5000 year and is used in many Christian churches. Gold, frankincense, and myrrh were among the gifts said to be given to Jesus by the biblical magi.


The familiar holly (Ilex aquifolium) of Christmas cards and wreaths, is widely grown in parks and gardens. Both male and female specimens must be grown together to ensure berries (drupes), which are produced only by female plant.


Ivy (Hedera helix) is an evergreen climbing plant, growing to 20-30m high The flowers are produced from late summer until late autumn, and are very rich in nectar an important late autumn food source for bees and other insects. The fruit are tiny purple-black to orange-yellow  berries, ripening in late winter, and are an important food for birds.


The orange is thought to have originated in southern China, and northeastern India, they were first cultivated in China around 2500 BC. The sweet orange was unknown until the late 15th century, when Italian and Portuguese merchants brought orange trees into the Mediterranean area. The orange features as the central part of the Christingle – a symbolic object used in Christian celebrations of advent and Epiphany.

Norwegian Spruce

Norway spruce (Picea abies) is a species of spruce native to Central and Eastern Europe .It grows up to 55m and is widely planted for use as a Christmas tree. Every year Oslo, provides the cities of New York, London, Edinburgh and Washington D.C. with their native spruce, which is placed at the most Central Square of each city. This is mainly a sign of gratitude for the aid these countries gave during the Second World War.