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Ilex glabra, also known as Appalachian tea, dye-leaves, evergreen winterberry, gallberry, and inkberry, is a species of evergreen holly native to the coastal plain of eastern North America, from coastal Nova Scotia to Florida and west to Louisiana where it is most commonly found in sandy woods and peripheries of swamps and bogs. Ilex glabra is often found in landscapes of the middle and lower East Coast of the United States. It typically matures to 5–8 ft (1.5–2.4 m) tall, and can spread by root suckers to form colonies. It normally is cultivated as an evergreen shrub in USDA zones 6 to 10.
Gallberry nectar is the source of a pleasant honey that is popular in the southern United States.
Spineless, flat, ovate to elliptic, glossy, dark green leaves (to 1.5 in long) have smooth margins with several marginal teeth near the apex. Leaves usually remain attractive bright green in winter unless temperatures fall below -17 C/0 F. Greenish white flowers (male in cymes and female in cymes or single) appear in spring, but are relatively inconspicuous. If pollinated, female flowers give way to pea-sized, jet black, berry-like drupes (inkberries to 3/8" diameter) which mature in early fall and persist throughout winter to early spring unless consumed by local bird populations. Cultivars of species plants (e.g. Ilex glabra 'Shamrock') typically are more compact, less open, less leggy and less suckering than the species.
Gallberry honey 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.
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.
- Cloud, Katherine Mallet-Prevost. The Cultivation of Shrubs (Chapter IX: Cultural Instructions), Dodd, Mead & Company, 1927, p. 191.
- Carolina Nature: Inkberry (Ilex glabra)
- UConn Plant Database: Ilex glabra
- NS Wildflora: Ilex glabra
- Coastal Plain Plants: Ilex glabra