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

 Native Plant Database

Ilex verticillata

Common winterberry, Winterberry, Michigan holly, Black alder

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)

Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry)
Makin, Julie
The leaves of Common winterberry are not shaped with sharp teeth like other hollies and are not evergreen. The purplish green foliage turns black, in fact, with the first frost. The inconspicuous flowers, however, are followed by dense clusters of bright red berries that remain on the branches throughout winter. Winterberry is a globular, upright, medium-sized shrub, typically 6-10 ft. tall (to 20 ft. in some circumstances).

Extremely showy in late fall and early winter when covered with their bright red fruit, these shrubs are either male or female--a trait typical of the holly family. Birds are readily attracted to them. Since this shrub grows in both wet and dry sites, it is an adaptable naturalizer. The southern species Ilex decidua, found in thickets and moist sites from Virginia to Texas, also has the distinctive red fruit.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Tree
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Leaf: Green
Autumn Foliage: yes
Fruit: Red, Orange
Size Class: 6-12 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White , Yellow , Green , Brown
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , IL , IN , IA , KY , LA , ME , MD , MA , MI , MN , MS , MO , NH , NJ , NY , NC , OH , PA , RI , SC , TN , TX , VT , VA , WV , WI , DC
Canada: NB , NL , NS , ON , PE
Native Distribution: N.S. to FL Panhandle, w. to MN, s.e. MO & e. TX
Native Habitat: Swamps, Stream, river banks, Near lakes or ponds

Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Wet , Moist , Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, acidic soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam Medium Loam Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Winterberry tolerates poor drainage and is quite winter-hardy. 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.


Use Ornamental: Fruits ornamental, Attractive
Use Wildlife: Cover, Nesting site, Nectar-insects, Fruit-birds.
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 , Butterflies
Larval Host: Henrys Elfin butterfly.

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Ilex verticillata is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
(Microtia elva)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2015-11-12