Inkberry is medium-sized evergreen shrub, common in the Coastal Plain, rare in the Piedmont of North Carolina. The shrub is named for its drupes (commonly called berries), which are black as ink.It is a perennial evergreen shrub with a flowering period in early Spring, mid Spring and late Spring. It grows well in semi-shade, and prefers high levels of water. This plant requires a minimum of 165 frost free days to grow successfully. It has low drought tolerance.


Adapted to clay, silt, sand, loam, silty clay, sandy clay, clay loam, silt loam, sandy loam, loamy sand, silty clay loam and sandy clay loam soils, and prefers medium fertility.


This shrub has an ultimate height of 2.4m / 7.87'.


It has green leaves.


Hedge (medium).

Fruit and seed

There is a medium fruit/seed abundance beginning in Summer and ending in Autumn.

Progagation and germination

Propagation techniques include bare root, container and seed. The seed can be germinated by cold stratification / cold moist prechilling.

Adapted to clay, silt, sand, loam, silty clay, sandy clay, clay loam, silt loam, sandy loam, loamy sand, silty clay loam and sandy clay loam soils, and prefers medium fertility.

Inkberry occurs primarily in pocosins, savannas, low woods, and pine barrens and woodlands. It is a common understory species of several fire-climax communities and an invader of frequently burned areas. On well-drained sites of bayland and pocosin communities, it is a dominant species. It is a common shrub in loblolly-shortleaf pine communities, and with Wiregrass (Aristida stricta), it may be one of the most conspicuous members of the understory of longleaf pine forests in Florida. Inkberry is shade tolerant and grows in both sunny and shaded habitats, on dry to wet sites, and on sandy to heavier peaty soils. Flowering: March-June; fruiting: September-October, the fruits persisting into the following spring.


Inkberry leaves are browsed by marsh rabbit and white tailed-deer, the fruits are important food for raccoon, coyote, and opossum when other sources are scarce. The fruit is also eaten by at least 15 species of birds, including bobwhite quail and wild turkey. Inkberry provides cover for white-tailed deer, small rodents, and several species of birds. Nectar of the flowers is an important source for honey production.

Inkberry is coming to be recommended and used for ornament as one of the few evergreen shrubs that thrives in continually moist to wet sites and adapts to a wide range of light availability. It provides a larger and faster growing alternative to boxwood hybrids, although it tends to be leggier, prone to stem breakage, and the rhizomatous plants tend to form large, expanding colonies. Numerous cultivars of inkberry have been selected and are commercially available. Compared to the wild types, these generally have a more compact, taller, and/or broader habit, smaller and darker leaves, greater cold hardiness, and/or more abundant fruit production. Selections are sometimes restricted to one or the other sex, and because the staminate and pistillate flowers are on different plants, both sexes must be present for fruit production.

Inkberry can be used for erosion control, watershed protection, and phosphate mine reclamation. It is included in listings of potential new crops for Australia as a source of beverage -- presumably desirable for its caffeine.

The fruit and leaves of various species of holly, presumably including inkberry, contain a mixture of the caffeine-like alkaloid theobromine, caffeine itself, and glycosides. The Indians of the southeastern US made a caffeinated tea from the leaves of yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria). Mate, or Paraguay tea, is made from the leaves of Ilex paraguariensis, a holly tree indigenous to Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Mate contains caffeine and a natural alkaloid called mateine, a mildly stimulating relative of caffeine that tends not to produce side effects such as nervousness or sleeplessness.

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