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Ilex glabra

Common Name(s):
Appalachian tea, Gallberry, Inkberry
Shamrock (compact form 3-5 ft.)
Native Plants, Shrubs

Ilex glabra, commonly called inkberry or gallberry, is a slow-growing, upright-rounded, stoloniferous, broadleaf evergreen shrub in the holly family. It typically matures to 5-8’ tall, and can spread by root suckers to form colonies. It is native to the coastal plain from Nova Scotia to Florida to Louisiana where it is most commonly found in sandy woods and peripheries of swamps and bogs. This plant is moderately salt tolerant.

Gallberry honey is a highly-rated honey that results from bees feeding on inkberry flowers. This honey is locally produced in certain parts of the Southeastern U.S. in areas where beekeepers release bees from late April to early June to coincide with inkberry flowering time. Dried and roasted inkberry leaves were first used by Native Americans to brew a black tea-like drink, hence the sometimes used common name of Appalachian tea for this shrub.

Regions:  Piedmont, Coastal plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Leaf:  Fall        Blooms:  Summer             Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Fall

Wildlife Value:  This plant is a host for the Henry Elfin's butterfly. Adult butterflies and bees are attracted to the blooms  Its fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals. White tailed deer may browse the leaves and twigs. 

Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi.  This plant is somewhat resistant to damage by deer.  

Play Value: Wind Screen & Buffers; Wildlife Enhancement

Notes: Multiple Stem

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: Leaf spot is an occasional problem. Spider mites may appear, especially in dry conditions. Susceptible to chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) in high pH (alkaline) soils.

Seed: Berry-like drupe


5-8 ft.
The Inkberry has alternate, simple, spineless, flat, ovate to elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves (to 1.5” long) that have smooth margins with several marginal teeth near the apex. Leaves usually remain attractive in winter unless temperatures dip well below zero.
The Inkberry has greenish white flowers (male in cymes and female in cymes or single) that appear in spring, but are relatively inconspicuous. If pollinated, female flowers give way to pea-sized, jet black, berry-like drupes (inkberries to 3/8" diameter) which mature in early fall and persist throughout winter to early spring unless consumed by local bird populations.
The Inkberry is easily grown in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. It is adaptable to both light and heavy soils. Will tolerate wet soils. It prefers rich, consistently moist, acidic soils in full sun. Good shade tolerance, however. Avoid neutral to alkaline soils. Inkberries are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator in order to produce the berry-like drupes that are characteristic of the species and cultivars. Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth begins. Plants generally need minimal pruning unless used as a hedge (perhaps best grown as an informal hedge). Remove root suckers regularly if colonial spread is not desired. Sun to partial shade; prefers moist, acidic soil but tolerates wet soils
Upright, erect rounded, much-branched shrub; becomes open with age
Full sun, part shade
Berry-like drupe
5-8 ft.
wet soil, wet sites, bees, native, play, playground, pollinator, salt tolerant, deer resistant, evergreen, highly beneficial coastal plants, birds, butterflies, honeybees, small spaces, children’s garden, wildlife, cpp, specialized bees, wet, nectar, low maintenance, drought tolerant, pollinator plant, small space, winter interest

NCCES plant id: 1590

Ilex glabra I. glabra (Inkberry)
Phillip Merritt, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Ilex glabra I. glabra fruit
John Brandauer, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Ilex glabra I. glabra (Inkberry) flowers
Mary Keim, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Ilex glabra Ilex glabra leaf and branch structure
Debbie Roos