Yaupon holly ( Ilex vomitoria )

When we first moved here I went crazy trying to figure out what on earth all this stubby trees were in our yard. They are so common down here the gardening books ignore them.

Yaupon are a softwood small tree, best grown in clumps. Yaupon holly can reach 45′ in height but normally top out at closer to 25′ in Texas. Usually the bottom 6′-10′ of branches are removed to give it a more tree like shape.

It’ll pretty much grow under any conditions forming thick, dense thickets if left alone. The bottom branches do die off on their own if left on the tree. So plan on trimming it once a year to keep it looking nice.

The female trees have bright red berries, and it is evergreen so it adds nice color to your garden around the winter holidays. The birds will feed on the berries late winter when other food sources are scarce. The berries appear around Christmas, just in time to decorate your garden red and green for the holiday.

Tiny white flowers appear in the spring, but are not especially noticeable. When the flowers fall there are so many it appears to be snowing for a few days in the back gardens.

It is not spider mites but bark lice that make those ghostly webs on the trees. They do not harm the tree in any way. They eat fungus and other things off the bark and basically clean the bark on the tree. After a few weeks they will disappear along with the web. They appear most often in humid hot weather. So if you see them feel free to just leave them be, they’ll move on after cleaning your tree.

The leaves of Yaupon holly are very high in caffeine and were used in a purgatory tea by the native American Indians. Yaupon holly is not toxic and it’s not known what other ingredients were added to the tea to make it a purgative. It’s the only know native North American plant to contain caffeine. Be careful not to confuse it with possum haw which is deciduous and not recommended as a tea. To use for tea leaves should be air dried or dry roasted ~200’F.

While there are some yellow berried varieties, I’m told they don’t always remain yellow berried.

No problems with cold or heat, no problems with drought or flood. Yaupon holly will grow anywhere and are a great plant for problem areas.

Here’s the buzz on America’s Forgotten Native ‘Tea’ Plant