En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Use of Ilex sp. by Seminole Indians to make black drink.

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

Sap of mulberry similar to sap of maple for syrup from Wellman IA
February 23, 2012 - Can the the sap of the mulberry tree be used to make syrup similar to maple Syrup?
view the full question and answer

Petals of flowers on cake from London
August 28, 2010 - Hi could you confirm that Gemini, Lisianthus and Lilies are non toxic if positioned onto a fresh cream cake (stem will be paced into a vial but the petals will come into contact with the cream). Thank...
view the full question and answer

Is the Texas mesquite, Prosopis glandulosa, toxic to cats?
September 08, 2009 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants! Regarding Texas mesquite tree, I know that rabbits and deer etc eat the seed pods, but my cat every time he goes outside starts munching on the pods, and I can't find any info o...
view the full question and answer

Raspberries in KS
April 28, 2012 - A friend told me that when he planted golden raspberries next to red and black-raspberries that the golden raspberries did not produce any fruit. He was told that when planted near each other, the go...
view the full question and answer

Making Tea from Croton monanthogynus
August 13, 2013 - Do you have any other information on the value of croton monanthogynus as a tea? Nutritive value? Possible adverse reactions?
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center