Winterberry (Black Alder) - Ilex verticillata

Native Shrubs ... in wildlife landscaping

West Virginia Native Plant Society
West Virginia Nongame Wildlife Program

  Form: Rounded top, many stemmed shrub to 12 feet tall.
  Twigs: Twigs slender and smooth with small whitish dots (lenticels). Pith is green, gray to brown bark.
  Leaves: Deciduous, alternate, simple, elliptic to round in shape, small teeth on margin, dull green above, turns blackish color in autumn.
  Flowers: Inconspicuous, small whitish yellow, May-June.
  Fruit: Showy bright red fruits from August to October. Persists into winter.
West Virginia Range:
Mostly in mountain counties of Braxton, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hampshire, Marion, Mason, Mercer, Mineral, Monongalia, Morgan, Nicholas, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, Webster and Wyoming.
Natural Habitat:
Swamps, low ground and streambanks.
Wildlife Use:
The fruits are preferred food for many wildlife species such as raccoon, red squirrel, and the following birds: ruffed grouse, bobwhite, wood duck, robin, waxwing, thrushes, catbird, flicker and brown thrasher. Winterberry is frequently used as nest sites by many songbirds.
Horticulture:
Uses: Groups, screens or borders.
Light: Full sunlight.
Soil Moisture: Wet to moist.
Soil pH: Acid to slightly acid.
Problems: Leaves are often affected by leaf spots, tar spot and mildew but does not seriously affect the health of the plants. Normally is trouble free. Does require male and female shrubs for fruit production.

Compiled by: Holly Dryer-Creasy, naturalist and amateur botanist, Fairmont, West Virginia

Written by West Virginia Native Plant Society members and jointly published with the WV Nongame Program

Illustration from Flora of West Virginia, Strausbaugh and Core