Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Ilex glabra

Inkberry, Gallberry

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)

Ilex glabra (Inkberry)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy
A mound-shaped, colony-forming shrub, somewhat open with age, 6-12 ft. tall and wide. Lance-shaped, sparingly-toothed, glossy, leathery foliage varies in color from dark- to light-green both in summer and fall. Inconspicuous flowers are followed by black berries which persist well into winter. This species differs from all other evergreen hollies by lacking spines on the leaves, only having teeth toward the tip of the leaves.

The Gallberry is a member of the holly family (family Aquifoliaceae) which includes shrubs and trees, small to medium-sized, rarely large; 300-350 species, nearly all in the holly genus (Ilex) in tropical and temperate regions, especially tropical America; 14 native tree and 2 native shrub species in North America. Leaves: alternate, simple, generally leathery and evergreen, sometimes with tiny stipules. Flowers: small, few clustered along twigs, whitish or greenish, regular, generally male and female on separate plants or bisexual; calyx with 4 (sometimes 5) tiny sepals or teeth; 4 (5) rounded whitish petals sometimes united at base, 4 (5) alternate stamens inserted at base of corolla, without disk, and 1 pistil with superior ovary of 4 (3-5) cells of 1-2 ovules each, usually without style, and 3-5 stalkless stigmas. Fruit: a round drupe or berry, red, black, or yellow, with stalkless stigmas, bitter pulp, and 3-5 nutlets.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Obovate
Leaf Texture: Leathery
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious , Monoecious
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: Shrub up to 12 feet tall, with extensive rhizomes, often forming colonies.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, evergreen, leathery, obovate to elliptic, pointed at the tip, tapering to the base, smooth, usually with a few teeth in the upper half, often reddish and dotted on the lower surface, shiny on the upper surface, up to 2 inches long, up to 3/4 inch wide; leaf stalks hairy, up to 1/3 inch long.
Flower: Male and female flowers borne separately on the same plant, or male and female flowers borne on separate plants; male flowers 3-7 in a cluster in the axils of the leaves; female flowers 1-3 in the axils of the leaves, on stalks up to 1/2 inch long.
Fruit: Drupes black at maturity, spherical, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, containing 5-8 nutlets.
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , LA , ME , MD , MA , MS , NH , NJ , NY , NC , PA , RI , SC , TX , VA
Canada: NS
Native Distribution: Coastal plain from N.S. to FL, w. to LA
Native Habitat: Bogs; wet woods of coastal plains

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Sandy to peaty, acid soil.
Conditions Comments: Flood tolerant. You must have both a male and female plant to have berries. The male must be the same species as the female and bloom at the same time. Because hollies are such popular landscape plants, it may be worth the risk to plant a female and hope there is a male nearby. Withstands heavy pruning and renewal of old plants is suggested. Pest free. Considered weedy in some areas.


Use Wildlife: High.
Warning: All Ilex species may be somewhat toxic if ingested. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
Attracts: Birds

Last Update: 2014-05-12