Inkberry is a slow-growing, upright-rounded evergreen shrub in the holly family. It is native to the southeastern U. S. Greenish white flowers appear in spring, but are relatively inconspicuous. If pollinated, female flowers give way to pea-sized, jet black, berry-like drupes (inkberries) which mature in early fall and persist throughout winter to early spring unless consumed by local bird populations.
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.
Wildlife Value: This plant is a host for the Henry Elfin’s butterfly. Adult butterflies and bees are attracted to the blooms. Its fruits are eaten by birds and small mammals. White tailed deer may browse the leaves and twigs.
Members of the genus Ilex support the specialized bee, Colletes banksi.