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Gallberry Ilex glabra

Other Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Winterlia glabra
Phonetic Spelling
EYE-leks GLAY-bruh
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

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 to 10 feet 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 and adaptable to both light and heavy soils. 

Inkberry is an upright, erect, rounded, much-branched shrub that becomes open with age  Prune to shape in early spring just before new growth begins. Plants generally need minimal pruning unless used as a hedge (perhaps it is best grown as an informal hedge). Remove root suckers regularly if spread is not desired.

The honey produced from the plant 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.   White-tailed deer may browse the leaves and twigs, although this plant is somewhat resistant to damage by deer and is rabbit resistant. The species is dioecious (meaning individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant, thus both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). It is pollinated by bees and is not self-fertile.

Habitat: Savannas, pine flatwoods, pocosin margins, swamps, primarily in wetlands, but extending upslope even into sandhills, with a clay lens or spodic horizon below to maintain additional moisture

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

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.  Prone to Phytophthora root rot– look for resistant alternative species if this disease is in your area.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Entryway Garden, Cabarrus County Extension Office
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Gem Box®
    Dwarf female, dense and ball-shaped; good Boxwood alternative
  • 'Nigra'
    Similar to 'Shamrock', commercially available, compact
  • 'Shamrock'
    compact form 3'-5'
  • Strongbox®
    Mounded and dense female, resistant to pests and disease; good Boxwood alternative
Gem Box®, 'Nigra', 'Shamrock', Strongbox®
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#honey bees#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#low maintenance#winter interest#rabbit resistant#windbreak#playground#specialized bees#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#fire high flammability#NC native#buffer#children's garden#native garden#edible fruits#pollinator plant#larval host plant#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains FAC#Coastal FACW#wet soils tolerant#fruits#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#pollinator garden#bee friendly#Audubon#henry’s elfin butterfly
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • Gem Box®
    Dwarf female, dense and ball-shaped; good Boxwood alternative
  • 'Nigra'
    Similar to 'Shamrock', commercially available, compact
  • 'Shamrock'
    compact form 3'-5'
  • Strongbox®
    Mounded and dense female, resistant to pests and disease; good Boxwood alternative
Gem Box®, 'Nigra', 'Shamrock', Strongbox®
Tags:
#evergreen#drought tolerant#wildlife plant#honey bees#nectar plant#native shrub#salt tolerant#cover plant#low maintenance#winter interest#rabbit resistant#windbreak#playground#specialized bees#food source wildlife#highly beneficial coastal plants#cpp#fire high flammability#NC native#buffer#children's garden#native garden#edible fruits#pollinator plant#larval host plant#cover#food source fall#food source herbage#food source nectar#food source pollen#Piedmont Mountains FAC#Coastal FACW#wet soils tolerant#fruits#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant early summer#pollinator garden#bee friendly#Audubon#henry’s elfin butterfly
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    glabra
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    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.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Alabama
    Distribution:
    coastal plain from Nova Scotia to Florida to Louisiana
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    This plant provides nectar for pollinators. It is a larval host plant for Henry's Elfin (Callophrys henrici) larvae which appear from February to May and have one flight. Adult Henry's Elfin butterflies feed on flower nectar. Other adult butterflies and bees are attracted to the blossoms as well. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee:  Colletes banksi. The plant's fruits are eaten by many species of birds, including bobwhite quail and wild turkey and small mammals. Leaves are eaten by white-tailed deer and rabbits. This is also a cover plant for deer and other birds.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Edible fruit
    Screening
    Wildlife Cover/Habitat
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wind Break
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Soil compaction tolerant, deer resistant
    Edibility:
    Use caution. Human ingestion of berries can cause minor toxic reaction.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 5 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 5 ft. 0 in. - 8 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10a, 10b, 11b, 11a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Edible
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Drupe
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Pea-sized, jet black, berry-like drupes (inkberries to 3/8" in diameter) which mature in September and last through November.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Cyme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Flower Description:
    Inkberries are dioecious, needing both male and female plants to produce fruits. Flowers are fairly inconspicuous. Male plants have flowers in cymes while the female plant will bear flowers in either cymes or as a single. Blooms from May to June.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    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.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Multiple stems
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Children's Garden
    Edible Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Erosion
    Pollution
    Rabbits
    Salt
    Wet Soil
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Minor toxicity. Ingestion may cause vomiting, diarrhea, or other illness in humans.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Saponins
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No