Ilex glabra - Inkberry
Family: Aquifoliaceae

Hear the scientific name

Ilex glabra is one of the very few evergreen shrubs, broadleaf or narrowleaf, to thrive in wet sites. Inkberry is noted for its evergreen foliage and upright, spreading, and suckering shrub growth habit when in species form. Compact cultivars serve as an alternative to Boxwood (Buxus) in situations where a refined, but taller and faster growing, broadleaf evergreen is needed. It is also an alternative to Japanese Holly (Ilex crenata) where a more cold hardy broadleaf evergreen is needed.

F   E   A   T   U   R   E   S
  form Form

-medium-sized evergreen foliage shrub (cultivars are smaller)

-species form matures at about 8' tall x 8' wide, forming colonies with time

-upright oval growth habit, becoming spreading, suckering, and leggy with age

-slow growth rate (except for rapid basal suckers)

foliage Foliage

-evergreen, alternate, narrow obovate, and shiny dark green (lighter green in alkaline soils, especially in winter)

-margins are entire except for a few sparse serrations near the leaf apex


-miniature cream-colored male and female flowers occur in June on separate plants (dioecious), hidden among the previous year's evergreen foliage

-ornamentally insignificant


-if a male pollinator is present, sparse green berries on female shrubs mature to black in Sept. (hence the common name of Inkberry)

-persist until the following spring

-not ornamentally significant due to their paucity and poor color contrast against the dark evergreen foliage; also, many cultivars are male clones


-slender and light green

-flexible and bending under a light snow load, but somewhat brittle and prone to breakage under an ice load or heavy wet snow load


-with maturity, the several basal trunks are quite leggy, smooth, and light gray

C   U   L   T   U   R   E


-full sun to full shade

-prefers moist to wet, acidic soils in partial sun to partial shade, but is somewhat adaptable to soils of various pHs and to dry soils

-propagated by rooted stem cuttings, separation of basal suckers from parent plants, or by seeds

-Holly Family, with only leaf spot as an occasional cosmetic disease problem, and virtually no pest problems

-abundantly available, in container or B&B form

-becoming leggy (absence of foliage and new stem growth from the basal branches), open, and spreading with age, and also suckering to form colonies

-as a general rule, broadleaf evergreens should not be placed in south- or west-facing exposures to avoid winter foliage burn; although Inkberry performs better than most under these adverse conditions, it will start to foliage burn at about -15 degrees F (-26 degrees C)

-tolerates light to moderate shearing very well, to promote compactness


-zones 4 to 9


-native to the Eastern U.S.

U   S   A   G   E


-attractive broadleaf evergreen foliage

-takes well to shearing

-wet site tolerant

-full sun to full shade adaptable

-much more cold hardy than Japanese Holly, with which it is sometimes confused and interchangeably used in southern climates

-larger and more rapidly growing alternative to modern Boxwood hybrids


-legginess with age (no foliage on lower stems)

-prone to stem breakage under heavy ice or snow loads

-occasional winter foliage burn

-species form is suckering with age, forming a broad colony beyond its original boundary


-shrub for foundations, borders, group plantings, mass plantings, formal or informal hedges, backgrounds, specimens, or naturalized areas


-fine texture

-thick density until maturity, when it may become average to open in its density (unless it has been periodically sheared)

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Varieties and Cultivars - Search OSU PlantFacts for additional plants in this species


-shrubs with broadleaf evergreen foliage (Buxus hybrids, Ilex x meserveae, Ilex opaca, Mahonia aquifolium, etc.)

-shrubs tolerant of wet sites (Cornus sericea, Hamamelis vernalis, Lindera benzoin, Salix purpurea, etc.)


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