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Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)
Marcus, Joseph A.

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria Aiton

Yaupon, Yaupon Holly, Cassina

Aquifoliaceae (Holly Family)



USDA Native Status: L48 (N)

Native from southern Virginia south to Florida and west to southeast Oklahoma and central Texas, Yaupon is a picturesque, upright, single- or multi-trunked shrub or small tree, growing 12-45 ft high but usually no higher than 25 ft. Female plants produce prodigious amounts of bright red, persistent berries. The leaves are dark green and small, usually less than 1 1/2 in. long. The pale gray bark is marked with white patches.

Yaupon Holly is often grown in residential landscapes and trimmed into hedges, with many cultivars popular: weeping forms, columnar forms, and dwarf forms. The ornamental twigs with shiny evergreen leaves and numerous red berries have been used as holiday decorations and make cheerful accents in the winter landscape. The leaves and twigs contain caffeine, and American Indians used them to prepare a tea, which they drank in large quantities ceremonially and then vomited back up, lending the plant its species name, vomitoria. The vomiting was self-induced or because of other ingredients added; it doesn't actually cause vomiting. Tribes from the interior traveled to the coast in large numbers each spring to partake of this tonic, and it was also a common hospitality drink among many groups. It remained popular as such among southeastern Americans into the 20th century and is still occasionally consumed today, with a flavor resembling another holly drink, the South American yerba mate, from Ilex paraguariensis. Yaupon is slow-growing and tends to get thick and twiggy on the inside, making it ideal for dense hedges but requiring careful pruning to shape it into a tree. You must have both a male and female plant to have berries. Nursery plants are typically female (fruiting) and are propagated by cuttings.


From the Image Gallery

65 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Tree
Root Type: Tap
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Leaf Arrangement: Alternate
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Elliptic , Ovate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Crenate
Leaf Apex: Obtuse
Leaf Base: Rounded
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Unisexual , Dioecious
Inflorescence: Axillary
Fruit Type: Drupe
Size Notes: 12-45 feet, but usually no higher than 25.
Leaf: Alternate, simple, evergreen, oblong to elliptic, rounded at the tip, rounded at the base, finely round-toothed along the edges, smooth, shiny, up to 1 1/2 inches long, up to 3/4 inch wide; leaf stalks hairy, up to 1/8 inch long.
Flower: Dioecious (only functionally male or functionally female flowers borne on any individual plant); male flowers 2-several clustered in fascicles in the axils of the leaves; female flowers 1-several in fascicles in the axils of the leaves.
Fruit: Drupes red, spherical, shiny, up to 1/4 inch in diameter, containing 4 nutlets. Although technically drupes, the fruit is commonly referred to as berries.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May


USA: AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , NC , OK , SC , TX , VA
Native Distribution: S.e. VA to FL, w. to AR, s.e. OK, & s.c. TX
Native Habitat: Low, maritime woods; hammocks; sandy pinelands; limestone uplands.

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Moist or well drained, sandy, loamy, clay, limestone, or gravelly soils.
Conditions Comments: Yaupon is a versatile plant that tolerates drought and poor drainage, with best production of red fruit when shrub gets half a day of sun or more.


Use Ornamental: A densely branching, evergreen shrub or small tree that can take severe hedging and pruning. Females have decorative red berries. Many cultivars available, including weeping, columnar, and dwarf varieties.
Use Wildlife: Many species of birds eat the fruit but usually only in late winter after several freezes and thaws. Mammals eat the fruit as well, and the flowers attract insects. Birds employ the dense branches for nesting sites.
Use Medicinal: The young leaves and twigs contain caffeine and may be used to make a tea.
Use Other: Fruiting branches used as holiday decorations.
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Birds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Henry's Elfin butterfly
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: Moderate


Propagation Material: Seeds , Semi-hardwood Cuttings
Description: Seeds germinate best if planted immediately after collection. They may be pretreated with double-stratification. Semi-hardwood cuttings taken in late fall can be made to root.
Seed Treatment: Some benefit may be obtained from 30-60 days treatment at 68-86 degrees followed by 60-90 days of 41 degrees.
Commercially Avail: yes
Maintenance: Can be sheared into geometric hedges or carefully pruned for a tree shape. Shape annually for best results.

Mr. Smarty Plants says

Tree for sound block near Houston
April 24, 2010
I live in Pearland, just south of Houston and am looking for a tree that I can plant along my fenceline between my neighbor and me that will block noise. We have a pool and entertain a lot, but they a...
view the full question and answer

Edible plants native to Austin, TX
August 05, 2009
Hello, I am a chef from Buenos Aires Argentina visiting Austin, Texas and would like to learn about native, edible plants in the region. Please let me know if there are any native, edible plants...
view the full question and answer

Hedge in central Texas
June 17, 2009
Help, my oleanders are dying. I am in need of hedge suggestions- ideal would be quick growing, maybe 8-12 feet at their tallest. I live in Central Texas.
view the full question and answer

Native evergreens for privacy in Crockett, TX
October 12, 2008
I need advice on what tall evergreens I can plant along a fence line for privacy. I need trees that will be at minimum 8 to 10 feet tall at maturity, are aesthetically pleasing and provide privacy. ...
view the full question and answer

Shrub to hide chain link fence
August 12, 2008
Mr. Smarty Plants, Please recommend a tall, thick shrub to conceal the 6 foot chain link fence around the perimeter of our property. The fence is located down a hill from our home with western exposur...
view the full question and answer

National Wetland Indicator Status

This information is derived from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Wetland Plant List, Version 3.1 (Lichvar, R.W. 2013. The National Wetland Plant List: 2013 wetland ratings. Phytoneuron 2013-49: 1-241). Click here for map of regions.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - Austin, TX
Pineywoods Native Plant Center - Nacogdoches, TX
Texas Discovery Gardens - Dallas, TX
Brackenridge Field Laboratory - Austin, TX
Patsy Glenn Refuge, c/o Wimberley Birding Society - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Native Plant Society of Texas - Fredericksburg, TX
Crosby Arboretum - Picayune, MS
Stengl Biological Research Station - Smithville, TX
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department - Austin, TX
NPSOT - Fredericksburg Chapter - Fredericksburg, TX
Georgia Native Plant Society - Atlanta, GA
Texas Master Naturalists - Lost Pines Chapter - Bastrop, TX
NPSOT - Austin Chapter - Austin, TX
Jacob's Well Natural Area - Wimberley, TX
NPSOT - Williamson County Chapter - Georgetown, TX
Wellspring Organic Farm and Education Center - West Bend, WI

Herbarium Specimen(s)

NPSOT 0577 Collected Mar 29,1990 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
NPSOT 0840 Collected Mar 27, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe
NPSOT 0950 Collected Sep 1, 1994 in Bexar County by Harry Cliffe

3 specimen(s) available in the Digital Herbarium

Wildflower Center Seed Bank

LBJWC-199 Collected 2007-11-21 in Travis County by Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

1 collection(s) available in the Wildflower Center Seed Bank


Bibref 1240 - Black Drink: A Native American Tea (1979) Hudson, Charles M.
Bibref 298 - Field Guide to Texas Trees (1999) Simpson, B.J.
Bibref 1620 - Gardening with Native Plants of the South (Reprint Edition) (2009) Wasowski, S. with A. Wasowski
Bibref 481 - How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest: Revised and Updated Edition (2001) Nokes, J.
Bibref 355 - Landscaping with Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest (1991) Miller, G. O.
Bibref 354 - Native & Naturalized Woody Plants of Austin & the Hill Country (1981) Lynch, D.
Bibref 841 - Native Alternatives to Invasive Plants (2006) Burrell, C. C.
Bibref 318 - Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region (2002) Wasowski, S. & A. Wasowski
Bibref 291 - Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife (1999) Damude, N. & K.C. Bender
Bibref 297 - Trees of Central Texas (1984) Vines, Robert A.

Search More Titles in Bibliography

Web Reference

Webref 17 - Southern Wetland Flora: Field Office Guide to Plant Species (0) U.S. Department of Agriculture. No date. Southern wetland flora: Field office guide to plant species. U.S.D.A. Soil Conservation Service, South Nat...

Research Literature

Reslit 528 - Absorption and translocation of [C-14] glyphosate in 4 woody plant species (1992) T. H. Green, P. J. Minogue, C. H. Brewer, G. R. Gl...
Reslit 382 - Diversity of methylxanthine content in Ilex cassine L. and Ilex vomitoria Ait.: Assessing sources of the north American stimulant cassina (2005) A. L. Edwards and B. C. Bennett
Reslit 630 - Shrub seedling establishment is limited by dispersal, slow growth, and fire in two wet pine savannahs in Mississippi (2008) S. Hinman, J. S. Brewer and S. W. Ashley
Reslit 1043 - Nitrogen fertilizer and gender effects on the secondary metabolism of yaupon, a caffeine-containing North American holly (2007) M. J. Palumbo, F. E. Putz and S. T. Talcott
Reslit 1044 - Ilex Vomitoria Ait. (Yaupon): A Native North American Source of a Caffeinated and Antioxidant-Rich Tea (2009) M. J. Palumbo, S. T. Talcott and F. E. Putz
Reslit 1201 - Effects of reintroduction of fire into fire suppressed coastal scrub and longleaf pine communities along the lower gulf coastal plain (2007) A. D. Ruth, D. L. Miller, S. Lose and A. Long
Reslit 1223 - Postestablishment landscape performance of Florida native and exotic shrubs under irrigated and nonirrigated conditions (2008) S. M. Scheiber, E. F. Gilman, D. R. Sandrock, M. P...
Reslit 1557 - Ornamental Plant Response to Percentage of Reclaimed Water Irrigation (2010) T. H. Yeager, J. K. von Merveldt and C. A. Larsen
Reslit 1687 - Ilex vomitoria as a native source of caffeine (1919) F. B. Power and V. K. Chesnut
Reslit 1829 - Responses of root-crown bearing shrubs to differences in fire regimes in Pinus palustris (longleaf pine) savannas: Exploring old-growth questions in second-growth systems (2006) P. B. Drewa, J. M. Thaxton and W. J. Platt

This information was provided by the Florida WIldflower Foundation.
Search More Titles in Research Literature

From the Archive

Wildflower Newsletter 1988 VOL. 5, NO.5 - Penny Campaign Grows Oklahoma Wildflowers, Wildflower Center Collects Honors, Di...
Wildflower Newsletter 1989 VOL. 6, NO.6 - Landscape Restoration, Wildflower Outlook, Wildflower Center Fall Festival, Dire...
Wildflower Newsletter 1993 VOL. 10, NO.6 - Saving Trees and Plants at New Center Site a Big Job, Director's Report, Wildflo...

Additional resources

USDA: Find Ilex vomitoria in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Ilex vomitoria in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Ilex vomitoria


Record Modified: 2016-04-02
Research By: TWC Staff, GDG

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