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Search for native plants by scientific name, common name or family. If you are not sure what you are looking for, try the Combination Search or our Recommended Species lists.

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Ilex glabra (Inkberry)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Ilex glabra

Ilex glabra (L.) A. Gray

Inkberry, Gallberry

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N), CAN (N)

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 disc, 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.


From the Image Gallery

5 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

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. Although technically drupes, the fruit is commonly referred to as berries.

Bloom Information

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


USA: AL , AR , CT , DE , FL , GA , LA , MA , MD , ME , MS , NC , NH , NJ , NY , 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: Moist , Wet
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

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Honey Bees

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Ilex seeds exhibit a dormancy. Patience is probably more important than cold treatment for germination. Cuttings root about any time of year.
Seed Collection: Collect fruit in fall. Crush pulp and wash away. Seeds which float should be throw away as they are not viable.
Seed Treatment: Some benefit may be obtained from 30-60 days treatment at 68-86 degrees followed by 60-90 days of 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Shrubs for playground barrier hedge in Darien CT
December 07, 2009
I am working on my Eagle Scout project which is a barrier hedge in front of a playground at our town's baseball field to protect the kids from getting hit by balls. The fence would be 4 feet tall an...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen screening shrubs for New York
May 27, 2008
I need evergreen screening shrubs that aren't too deep. The shrubs are to be planted along an existing wrought iron fence, which is a few feet behind a children's swing set.
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Native Plant Center at Westchester Community College, The - Valhalla, NY
Delaware Nature Society - Hockessin, DE
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Mt. Cuba Center - Hockessin, DE


Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 17 - Southern Wetland Flora: Field Office Guide to Plant Species (0) U.S. Department of Agriculture. No date. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service, South Nat...

Research Literature

Reslit 172 - Long-term effects of dormant-season prescribed fire on plant community diversity, structure and productivity in a longleaf pine wiregrass ecosystem (1997) D. G. Brockway and C. E. Lewis
Reslit 101 - Flammability of native understory species in pine flatwood and hardwood hammock ecosystems and implications for the wildland-urban interface (2004) A. L. Behm, M. L. Duryea, A. J. Long and W. C. Zip...
Reslit 1223 - Postestablishment landscape performance of Florida native and exotic shrubs under irrigated and nonirrigated conditions (2008) S. M. Scheiber, E. F. Gilman, D. R. Sandrock, M. P...
Reslit 2597 - Ilex glabra - the inkberry holly (1991) M. A. Dirr, J. H. Alexander
Reslit 2598 - Micropropagation of Ilex glabra (L.) A. Gray (2010) Y. Sun, D. Zhang, J. Smagula
Reslit 2599 - Effects of Short Interval Cyclic Flooding on Growth and Survival of Three Native Shrubs (2011) K. L. Dylewski, A. N. Wright, K. M. Tilt, C. Leble...
Reslit 2600 - Container size and planting zone influence on transplant survival and growth of two coastal plants (2005) M. Thetford, D. Miller, K. Smith, M. Schneider
Reslit 2601 - Auxin application to stem cuttings of selected woody landscape plants by incorporation into a stabilized organic rooting substrate (2004) E. K. Blythe, J. L. Sibley, K. M. Tilt, J. M. Rute...
Reslit 2602 - A comparison of irrigation system, basal temperature and auxin concentration on rooting of stem cuttings of Ilex glabra L. (2003) J. S. Owen, Jr., W. A. Johnson, and B. K. Maynard

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1992 VOL. 9, NO.1 - Research Update, Creating Native Lawn with Sod, Director's Report, What Makes Pl...
Wildflower Newsletter 1998 VOL. 15, NO.5 - Native Shrubs Providing Landscape Heritage and Habitat, Executive Director\'s Re...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ilex glabra in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ilex glabra in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ilex glabra


Record Modified: 2014-05-12
Research By: TWC Staff

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