Good Food and Cover

Winterberry or Black Aler – Ilex verticillata


Rounded top, many stemmed shrub to 12 feet tall.


Twigs slender and smooth with small whitish dots (lenticels). Pith is green, gray to brown bark.


Deciduous, alternate, simple, elliptic to round in shape, small teeth on margin, dull green above, turns blackish color in autumn.


Inconspicuous, small whitish yellow, May-June.


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.


Uses: Groups, screen 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 heal 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 Wildlife Diversity Program.