Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Plants for shade, poor soil in Park Ridge NJ
June 17, 2010 - Hello! I live in far northeast New Jersey, by the New York state border. I am looking for plants for areas of my lawn that nothing currently grows in - due to shade and poor soil quality - very rocky,...
view the full question and answer

Fruit trees from seeds
May 07, 2008 - Will fruit trees (primarily peach) produce fruit if grown from a seed?
view the full question and answer

Are berries of coral honeysuckle edible from Lufkin TX
May 21, 2013 - Are the berries of coral honeysuckle edible?
view the full question and answer

Identifying a plant similar to sarsaparilla
September 04, 2011 - I am trying to identify a plant that looks very similar to sasparilla, but has a ring of blue berries at the end of a long stalk, and the plant itself is spreading, not an isolated herb like sasparill...
view the full question and answer

Can bastard cabbage be eaten from Austin
May 02, 2013 - On a local cooking show they were talking about cooking local foods and mentioned bastard cabbage but never showed how to cook it or if it was in fact edible. Would be a way to help get rid of it if ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.