Ilex vomitoria


A holly, YAUPON (Ilex vomitoria) is also known as Cassena, Cassine, Cassio Berry Bush, Evergreen Cassene, Yapon, Yopon, Youpon, Yaupon Holly, Emetic Holly, Evergreen Holly, South Sea Tea, Carolina Tea, Appalachian Tea, Yopon del Indio, Chocolate del Indio, Indian Black Drink, Black Drink Plant, and Christmas Berry. It is a shrub to small tree that reaches up to 25 ft. The bark is brownish to mottled grey almost black with thin, small scales on old trunks. The leaves are evergreen and the blades are elliptic to oval, 0.5-2" long, 0.5-1" wide, margins crenate, apex rounded or obtuse, sometimes emarginate and mucronate, and the upper surface is lustrous dark green with the lower surface paler. The red (rarely yellow) fruit is glistening, ca 1/4" diameter, and borne in profusion close to the stem and cling until spring. The heavy, hard, nearly white turning yellow when exposed to air, close-grained, strong wood weighs 46 lb per cu ft and is used for turnery, inlay and woodenware. The branches are used for decoration for Christmas. The leaves are dried to make tea (black drink) which contains caffeine and possesses emetic and purgative qualities. The fruit is eaten by at least 7 species of birds and raccoons. It is good browse for white-tail deer. Cabeza de Vaca, the early Spanish explorer, noted that the east Texas Indians used the leaves in make a medicinal tea called "Black Drink" which possessed emetic and purgative qualities. Some sources state the Indians drank it to prove their suitability for the warpath. A strong decoction cause vomiting,
hence the specific epithet "vomitoria". The only native plant in the US with caffeine. Many yaupon plants on Allen Acres. I am often asked how to separate privet and yaupon; both have simple, evergreen, leaves with pinnate major veins but privet has opposite leaves and yaupon has alternate leaves.