Leaves of inkberry.

Inkberry holly is a colony-forming, east coast native shrub for low, wet sites.  Can be used as a foundation planting, hedge or in mass.  Prefers acidic soils.  The flowers are not showy, but the black fruits can be seen well into winter.  Hollies have separate male and female plants, requires a male plant to pollinate the female plant so it can produce fruits.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Ilex glabra

All Common Names:

Inkberry, Gallberry

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub


  • Evergreen (foliage year-round)

Native Locale:

  • North America

Landscape Uses:

  • Foundation,
  • Hedge,
  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily),
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8

Soil Preference:

  • Acid soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil,
  • Wet soil

Season of Interest:

  • Early winter,
  • Mid winter,
  • Late winter,
  • Late fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Inconspicuous

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Round,
  • Thicket-forming

Growth Rate:

  • Slow

More Information:

Size and Form

6 to 8 feet high and wide; rounded form; thicket forming.

Tree & Plant Care

Best in moist to wet sites in acidic soil. Will tolerate higher pH with organic matter.
Does not tolerate dry soil. Mulch to maintain cool root envirnoment.
Salt tolerant.
Spreads by underground stolons, removal of suckers may be needed to control width of the shrub.
Renewal pruning is suggested to keep the plant in the best shape possible.

Disease, pests and problems

No serious pests.
Winter burn of the evergreen leaves can occur in open, windy sites. Deciduous in the Midwest.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to the southeastern and eastern coastal areas of the United States.

Bark color and texture 

Bark is gray and relatively smooth when young, but dotted with warty lenticels.
Older bark becomes more blocky in appearance.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple, alternate, evergreen leaves; 1 to 2 inches long with margins mostly entire (some teeth near tip of leaf).
Dark green in summer; may become tinged with purple or bronze in winter.
Deciduous in the Midwest.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Inconspicuous; male and female flowers on separate plants; male plant will be needed to pollinate females so fruit can be produced.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Black berry-like fruit (drupes) on female plants only; persist through entire winter.

Cultivars and their differences 

Compacta  (Ilex glabra 'Compacta'):  More compact than the species, growing only 4 to 6 feet high; female cultivar, so it will produce black fruits if a male pollinator is provided; dark green leaves; fine texture.

Nordic™  (Ilex glabra ‘Chamzin’)compact cultivar, growing only 3 to 4 feet high, so appropriate for smaller yards; rounded form and dense growth; produces fewer suckers than the species; male cultivar so no fruit will be produced, but it can serve as a pollinator for 'Compacta'.


Location of Ilex glabra (Inkberry) at the Arboretum