Easter Holly?

Hollies, we expect, to have red berries at Christmas-time. Gallberry (Ilex glabra) is a holly that has black fruits. The fruits often persist throughout the winter and into spring. Ultimately, they are eaten by migratory birds.

When we visited Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve on April 10, 2022, black berries, seen above, festooned some plants, while other gallberries were full of creamy white flowers with 4 or 6 petals. Flowering occurs in the winter and spring, peaking in May. Bees, flies, and other pollinators visit the nectar-laden flowers.

Galberry, like all hollies, are dioecious: Male and female flowers are borne on different plants. Female flowers usually are solitary, and male flowers are borne on stalks in groups of three flowers. Sometimes, through, female flowers are held in groups of three.

Note the unripe fruits in the photo above. Gallberry fruits begin greenish white and ripen to be purplish black.

Its alternative leaves vary from ovate to elliptical and from 3/4 to 2″ long. The margins usually are toothed with notched apices (ends).

Gallberries are shrubs or small trees, usually ranging from 4 to 8′ tall. Younger plants are shrubbier. As they age, gallberries often drop the lower branches.

At the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area on the south side of Oslo Road and elsewhere, you will find them growing in moist to wet pine flatwoods in full sun or moderate shade. Gallberries prefer acidic soils. If you have the right soil conditions in your yard, gallberry can be a wonderful addition to your landscape to attract birds, bees, and other pollinators.

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