Ilex glabra, Inkberry Holly
We know what you all want! — An easy to grow evergreen shrub. Are we right?
It can be a challenge finding the right evergreen in the native palette. After all, we live in the eastern DECIDUOUS forest. Many of our evergreens are tall pines, needing full sun and lots of space. The one shade needled evergreen – hemlock – can suffer from wooly adelgid, thought it can be managed in a home landscape. The broad leaved evergreens – rhododendron, mountain laurel, and leucothoe, need that ever-elusive perfectly balanced moist, well drained acidic, humusy soil.
We have ONE evergreen shrub that just might fil the bill for you. Ilex glabra, or Inkberry. Many people think it resembles the non-native boxwood. Its branching habit is a bit more open than boxwood. It can grow in moist to wet soil, in sun to part shade. It reaches up to 8 feet and can be easily trimmed if needed. Clay does not bother it.
The leaves are dark green and glossy. Use inkberry in a shrub border, hedgerow, or habitat island. If it gets leggy, you can prune it a bit. With age it can sucker a bit. It is shade tolerant but best in full sun. Avoid alkaline (High pH) soils.
Female Inkberry bears a small black fruit that birds will eat. There are many selections of inkberry and if you want the berries, you will need at least one male to as many female plants as you want. We grow inkberry by seed and must wait 3 to 4 years before we can identify them as male. Therefore, we offer males on a sporadic basis. As soon as we identify one, we put it out for sale. Generally it does not wait long for a home.
How to Tell the Male from the Female
You can identify male and female hollies when they bloom. Male flowers have stamens covered with pollen (Left) Female flowers have a center ovary which will become the berry if fertilized. If you aren’t sure if you have a male or a female inkberry, check their flowers this May. (These are the leaves of winterberry holly, but the flowers will be the same for any of the hollies.)
We offer named selections and the straight species of inkberry. At various times we may have any of the following. Check our availability to see what we have at the moment.
Ilex glabra ‘Compacta’
A female plant with slightly tighter branching than the species.
Ilex glabra ‘Nigra’
A female plant with slightly purplish foliage in the winter.
Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’
A female clone with more compact habit than the species and grows to about 5 feet. For berries, you must also plant a male inkberry.
Ilex glabra ‘Gem Box’
A tiny little treasure, good for folks with out a lot of space. There are no known compatible male selections to produce berries on this selection, although it wouldn’t hurt to try a straight species male.
Ilex glabra (“Straight Species”)
This is the wild form, grown from seed. It has an open habit and can be male or female. We grow straight species inkberries from seed and when we identify one as male we immediately offer it for sale so that those with female plants can look forward to providing berries for the birds. Males are available only on a limited basis. This can take several years.