Herb: Winterberry

Latin name: Ilex verticillata

Synonyms: Prinos verticillatus

Family: Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)

Medicinal use of Winterberry:

The bark is antiseptic, astringent, cathartic and tonic. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of diarrhoea, malaria etc, and externally in the treatment of indolent sores and chronic skin disease. The bark contains about 4.8% tannin. It is harvested in the autumn before the first frosts. Another report says that the bark is harvested in the spring and dried for later use. The fruit is cathartic.

Description of the plant:


2 m
(6 1/2 foot)

May to

Habitat of the herb:

Swamps, pond margins and damp thickets.

Edible parts of Winterberry:

A tea is made from the dried and crumbled leaves. It does not contain caffeine.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in the autumn in a cold frame. It can take 18 months to germinate. Stored seed generally requires two winters and a summer before it will germinate and should be sown as soon as possible in a cold frame. Scarification, followed by a warm stratification and then a cold stratification may speed up the germination time. The seedlings are rather slow-growing. Pot them up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame for their first year. It is possible to plant them out into a nursery bed in late spring of the following year, but they should not be left here for more than two years since they do not like being transplanted. Alternatively, grow them on in their pots for a second season and then plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer. Give them a good mulch and some protection for their first winter outdoors. Cuttings of almost ripe wood with a heel, August in a shaded position in a cold frame. Leave for 12 months before potting up. Layering in October. Takes 2 years. Division in the dormant season.

Cultivation of Winterberry:

Swamps, pond margins and damp thickets.

Known hazards of Ilex verticillata:

Although no specific reports of toxicity have been seen for this species, the fruits of at least some members of this genus contain saponins and are slightly toxic. They can cause vomiting, diarrhoea and stupor if eaten in quantity. The fruit is poisonous.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.