En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
13 ratings

Monday - August 03, 2009

From: Royal Palm Beach, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Edible Plants
Title: Use of Ilex sp. by Seminole Indians to make black drink.
Answered by: Dean Garrett and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

Ilex myrtifolia: can the leaves be used as tea? Seminole indians made a black drink reputed to be made of holly leaves.

ANSWER:

The holly used to make this black "tea" is Ilex vomitoria (yaupon), and not Ilex myrtifolia (myrtle dahoon).  There is, in fact, a book considered the standard reference book for Native American use of this drink—"Black Drink" by Charles Hudson, an anthropologist specializing in cultures of the Southeast.  A small company out of St. Augustine, Florida, (Brown's St. Augustine Tea Company) has sold it in recent years and may still do so.  Ilex vomitoria is related to Ilex paraguariensis, the South American holly used to make the national drink of Argentina, maté or yerba maté.  Like the maté, the black drink made from the leaves of Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) is loaded with caffeine. Before the mass marketing of coffee and standard teas, this black drink made from yaupon was very popular in the southeastern US, usually known as Cassina or Cassina Tea, after one of the names for Ilex vomitoria. One of us (Dean) has tried some that was ordered from St. Augustine Tea Company and also made some from wild yaupon stands west of Austin, Texas. It tastes like maté and definitely packs a lot of caffeine like maté. It does not make you vomit, despite the species name. European explorers witnessed Southeastern Native Americans vomiting after drinking tons of the piping hot liquid in ceremonies, but it was either voluntarily induced or because of other ingredients added. 

The Native American Ethnobotany database from the University of Michigan-Dearborn lists a number of uses for Ilex sp., but doesn't list Ilex myrtifolia (myrtle dahoon) specifically.  Ilex sp. leaves  are said to have been used by the Comanche Indians to make a beverage.  Enter "Ilex" in the Search String to see all the uses given by the database.  If you would like to see the uses of Ilex sp. by the Seminoles, enter "Ilex AND Seminole" in the search string.  Or, if you just want to see all entries for Seminole Indians, enter "Seminole" in the search string.  Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) does grow in Florida and you can see the other different Ilex sp. that also grow in Florida in the maps on the Ilex sp. page of the USDA Plants Database.


Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria

 

 

More Edible Plants Questions

Edible forest garden for northern Minnesota
March 07, 2014 - I am planning an edible forest garden for northern Minnesota. Can you suggest a list of plants that are native to this area. We are in zone 3a or 3b. Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Toxicity of barren strawberries
April 30, 2012 - Are barren strawberries toxic? .
view the full question and answer

Petals of flowers on cake from London
August 28, 2010 - Hi could you please confirm whether it is safe to position an amaryllis on top of a fresh cream cake (it will not be eaten, nor will the stem touch the cream, it will be positioned in a non toxic vial...
view the full question and answer

Digging sassafras roots in Oklahoma
March 11, 2009 - When should I dig sassafras roots in eastern Oklahoma?
view the full question and answer

Coexistence of rubus trivialis and American beautyberry
May 28, 2007 - I'm growing some rubus trivialis in a 1-gal. pot and plan to plant it this fall. Will this dewberry coexist with American beautyberry, or must it have its own space entirely? If it needs its own sp...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center