Ilex glabra





  • native to eastern and south central United States
  • zone 5
  • typically found in large suckering colonies in swamps and wet areas

Habit and Form

  • 4' to 8' tall
  • upright spreading habit with rounded head
  • on older plants, the foliage is only on the upper half of the plant, making them somewhat leggy.
  • young plants are dense and compact
  • an evergreen shrub
  • tends to form suckering colonies

Summer Foliage

  • leaves mostly 1" to 2" long and 0.33" to 0.5" wide
  • broadest above the middle
  • usually with 2 notches in the leaf margins on each side of the apex creating a few teeth
  • leaves evergreen
  • leaves lustrous dark green
  • alternate leaf arrangement

Autumn Foliage

  • evergreen
  • leaves can develop a purple-plum cast in winter. This is dependant on cultivars and exposure


  • dioecious, with male and female plants
  • blooms in June
  • male flowers in clusters and female flowers solitary
  • flowers a small and dull white
  • not ornamentally important


  • small black fruits born in September
  • the 0.25" diameter fruits are held well into the next spring
  • not especially showy, but probably display better than I. crenata
  • white-fruited cultivars can be showy in fruit


  • smooth
  • gray-brown or slightly greenish
  • newer stems generally quite green


  • prefers adequate soil moisture and acidic pH
  • full sun or partial shade is best
  • relatively tolerant of salt
  • tolerates periodic rejuvenation pruning to lower the height
  • protect from harsh winter exposure

Landscape Use

  • borders
  • foundation plantings
  • mass plantings
  • wet locations
  • possibly for seaside plantings


  • needs ample soil moisture
  • leaf spot disease
  • tends to be pen and leggy at the base
  • may need some pruning to maintain fullness
  • foliar burn in exposed locations
  • performs poorly on high pH soils

ID Features

  • alternate leaves
  • only a few teeth at the leaf apex
  • upright growth with leggy, open base
  • colonizing or suckering habit
  • small black fruit


  • cultivars by semi-hardwood or winter cuttings
  • seeds exhibit a deep dormancy and are slow to germinate


'Compacta' - A common, popular clone that has denser branching and foliage than the species. It is a female form with black fruit and becomes an oval-rounded plant 6' tall and wide (though larger plants are known). It can become somewhat leggy with age without proper pruning.

'Ivory Queen', 'Leucocarpa' and 'Alba' - These are all forms (or renames) of the naturally-occuring white-fruited f. leucocarpa. They display lustrous, dark green foliage and rounded habits to 8' tall. The white fruit are more visible than the black fruit of the species.

'Chamzin' (Nordic®) - Marketed as an extremely cold hardy form (to -24 degrees F.), this plant is also notable for its broad growth habit (to 4' tall and wide) and dark green lustrous foliage. It appears to be a male (fruitless) selection.

'Shamrock' - Perhaps the most dwarf, slow-growing form in general commerce, this plant bears glossy deep green leaves on a rounded plant slowly reaching 3'-5' tall. This cultivar is rapidly gaining popularity, though observations indicate it may become leggy with age like other forms.

© Copyright Mark H. Brand, 1997-2015.

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Citation and Acknowledgements: University of Connecticut Plant Database,, Mark H. Brand, Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, Storrs, CT 06269-4067 USA.