Ilex verticillata

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Ilex verticillata
American Winterberry Ilex verticillata 'Winter Red' Cluster 3264px.jpg
Fruit in winter
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Aquifoliales
Family: Aquifoliaceae
Genus: Ilex
Species: I. verticillata
Binomial name
Ilex verticillata
(L.) A.Gray
Ilex verticillata range map.jpg
Natural range

Ilex verticillata, the winterberry, is a species of holly native to eastern North America in the United States and southeast Canada, from Newfoundland west to Ontario and Minnesota, and south to Alabama.[1][2]

Other names that have been used include Black Alder Winterberry, Brook Alder, Canada holly,[3] Coralberry, Deciduous Holly, Deciduous Winterberry, False alder, Fever bush, Inkberry, Michigan Holly, Possumhaw, Swamp Holly, Virginian Winterberry, or Winterberry Holly.[citation needed]

The species occurs particularly in wetland habitats, but also on dry sand dunes and grassland. The berries are an important food resource for some species of bird, among them the American robin.[4]


Ilex verticillata is a shrub growing to 1–5 metres (3.3–16.4 ft) tall. It is one of a number of hollies which are deciduous, losing their leaves in the fall. In wet sites, it will spread to form a dense thicket, while in dry soil it remains a tight shrub. The leaves are glossy green, 3.5–9 cm long, 1.5–3.5 cm broad, with a serrated margin and an acute apex. The flowers are small, 5 mm diameter, with five to eight white petals.

The fruit is a globose red drupe 6–8 mm diameter, which often persists on the branches long into the winter, giving the plant its English name. Like most hollies, it is dioecious, with separate male and female plants; the proximity of at least one male plant is required to pollenize the females in order to bear fruit.[4][5][6]

Foliage and unripe fruit in summer. 
Fruit in the winter. 

Cultivation and uses[edit]


The berries were used by Native Americans for medicinal purposes, the origin of the name "fever bush".[7]

Ornamental plant[edit]

Ilex verticillata - the American Winterberry - is prized as an ornamental plant in gardens for the midwinter splash of bright color from densely packed berries, whose visibility is heightened by the loss of foliage; therefore it is popular even where other, evergreen, hollies are also grown. The bare branches covered in berries are also popular for cutting and use in floral arrangements.

Easy to grow, with very few diseases or pests. Although wet acidic soils are optimal, the winterberry will grow well in the average garden. Numerous cultivars are available, differing in size and shape of the plant and color of the berry. At least one male plant must be planted in proximity to one or more females for them to bear fruit.

Selected cultivars[edit]


  1. ^ USDA . accessed 11.1.2011
  2. ^ "Ilex verticillata". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved 17 December 2017. 
  3. ^ Nova Scotia Wild Flora
  4. ^ a b New York Metropolitan Flora: Ilex verticillata
  5. ^ Digital Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador: Aquifoliaceae: Holly Family
  6. ^ Bioimages: Ilex verticillata
  7. ^ U.M. Ethnobotany . accessed 11.1.2011

External links[edit]