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Ilex verticillata

Phonetic Spelling
EE-leks ver-tik-il-LAY-tah
Description

Winterberry is a deciduous tree that may grow 10 to 15 feet tall, but it often occurs in the wild as a shrub. The leaves are alternate with a sharply toothed margin and hairy underside. The bark is thin, smooth, and gray-brown. In spring, stalked, yellow-green flowers mature in clusters. Female specimens produce red-orange drupes that mature in the fall.

The common name comes from the red berries that provide winter interest and sometimes persist into early spring (if the birds don't eat them). Berries have a terminal black "dot" instead of a "fly" like the Rosaceae berries. To obtain beautiful berries the plants must be property cross-pollinated.  Match blooming times with a male pollinator like 'Jim Dandy' or 'Southern Gentleman' by planting one male (per 10-20 females) within 50 feet of female plants.

Colonial. Dioecious: need compatible male pollinator plant to get female fruit set. Difficult to find the straight species in the trade. Male & female cvs available, as well as dwarf forms. May abort fruit in dry soil.

Fire Risk: This plant has a low flammability rating.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems:   No serious problems.  Leaf spots and powdery mildew occasionally occur. Neutral to alkaline soils may cause chlorosis (yellowing of leaves) and even death.

Quick ID Hints:

  • Deciduous shrubby holly with persistent red berries.
  • Berry has a terminal black dot, not a 'fly'.
  • Leaves are serrate and veins are pubescent underneath.

 

 

Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Afterglow'
    Pollinated by 'Apollo', 'Jim Dandy', 'Raritan'
  • 'Berry Heavy'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy'
  • 'Berry Nice'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy'
  • 'Bright Horizon'
  • 'Carolina Cardinal'
  • 'Jim Dandy'
    Early blooming male pollinator
  • 'Nana'
    Smaller 5 ft tall
  • 'Red Sprite'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy', 'Raritan'
  • 'Southern Gentleman'
    Late blooming male pollinator
  • 'Sparkleberry'
    Pollinated by: 'Apollo', 'Southern Gentleman', Raritan
  • 'Sunset'
    8 ft. tall
  • 'Winter Gold' Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold' flowers
    Green leaves with tiny white flowers
  • 'Winter Red'
    9 ft. tall, pollinated by: 'Apollo', 'Southern Gentleman'
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#fall color#birds#rain garden#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#salt tolerant#yellow leaves#winter interest#tsc#host plant#fall interest#berries#playground#host#year-round interest#hedges#wet sites#stream banks#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#cedar waxwing#bushy#shrub border#ponds#children's garden#fire resistant#edible fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#yellow fall color#food source fall#butterfly#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft-mast fruit#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Afterglow'
    Pollinated by 'Apollo', 'Jim Dandy', 'Raritan'
  • 'Berry Heavy'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy'
  • 'Berry Nice'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy'
  • 'Bright Horizon'
  • 'Carolina Cardinal'
  • 'Jim Dandy'
    Early blooming male pollinator
  • 'Nana'
    Smaller 5 ft tall
  • 'Red Sprite'
    Pollinated by: 'Jim Dandy', 'Raritan'
  • 'Southern Gentleman'
    Late blooming male pollinator
  • 'Sparkleberry'
    Pollinated by: 'Apollo', 'Southern Gentleman', Raritan
  • 'Sunset'
    8 ft. tall
  • 'Winter Gold' Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold' flowers
    Green leaves with tiny white flowers
  • 'Winter Red'
    9 ft. tall, pollinated by: 'Apollo', 'Southern Gentleman'
Tags:
#bees#butterflies#fruit#deciduous#fall color#birds#rain garden#wildlife plant#native tree#nectar plant#salt tolerant#yellow leaves#winter interest#tsc#host plant#fall interest#berries#playground#host#year-round interest#hedges#wet sites#stream banks#specialized bees#food source#cpp#low flammability#NC native#cedar waxwing#bushy#shrub border#ponds#children's garden#fire resistant#edible fruits#pollinator plant#Braham Arboretum#fantz#yellow fall color#food source fall#butterfly#food source nectar#food source pollen#food source soft-mast fruit#Coastal FACW#Piedmont Mountains FACW
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    verticillata
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Hedge, Rain Garden
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Distribution:
    Eastern North America
    Fire Risk Rating:
    low flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    The Winterberry is a host plant for Henry's Elfin butterfly and attracts other butterflies. Its fruits are eaten by over 48 species of birds, including cedar waxwings, and small mammals. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksi. The foliage is food source for rabbits and deer.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Edible fruit
    Wildlife Food Source
    Wildlife Larval Host
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    resistant to fire and mildly resistant to damage by deer. Heat, drought, and soil compaction tolerant.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 3 ft. 0 in. - 15 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Shrub
    Tree
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Habit/Form:
    Clumping
    Multi-stemmed
    Oval
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    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
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    Usda Plant Hardiness Zone:
    3a, 3b, 4a, 4b, 5a, 5b, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Long-lasting
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    Bright red berry-like drupe on female plants; persists into winter. Berries ripen from August to December. Berries have a terminal black "dot" instead of a "fly" like the Rosaceae berries. Berries are striking on naked branches.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Description:
    This plant has relatively inconspicuous greenish-white flowers that appear in the leaf axils in late spring. Blooms from April to June. Flowers, if properly pollinated, give way to a crop of bright red berries (1/4” diameter) in late summer to fall. Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold' have tiny white flowers with a green/yellow center.
  • Leaves:
    Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Leaf Color:
    Black
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Oblanceolate
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Doubly Serrate
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Deciduous, simple, smooth, acuminate, cuneate, obovate to oblong-ovate 1.5-4 inches long double serrated or doubly serrated alternate leaves. Leaves are pubescent on veins beneath. Ilex verticillata 'Winter Gold' have green leaves with obvious venation outline ontop with a lighter green underside where the veins are obvious in a pale-green.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Black
    Dark Brown
    Dark Gray
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Red/Burgundy
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Grey to blackish with knobby lenticel bark, grey to grey-brown buds.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Lenticels:
    Conspicuous
    Stem Description:
    Stems are olive-brown to purplish-brown and are lenticelled.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Pond
    Recreational Play Area
    Riparian
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Mass Planting
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Fire
    Salt
    Wet Soil