Ilex vomitoria

Secondary Names:
yaupon holly

Leaf Type: Evergreen
Texas Native:
Tree Description:

A thicket-forming shrub or small, multi-trunked tree to 25 feet tall and stems up to 6" in diameter, with a dense, conical or rounded crown of dark green foliage.

Range/Site Description:

Common on the fertile, moist soils of East Texas bottomlands, but also south to Matagorda Bay and west to the edge of the Edwards Plateau.


Simple, alternate, 1" to 2" long by 0.5" to 1" wide, oval, leathery, with blunt teeth along the margin. Leaves are glossy and dark green above, paler below, evergreen, and persistent for 2 to 3 years


Small, whitish, not showy; male and female flowers are borne on separate plants.


A red, translucent, berry-like drupe, about 0.25" in diameter, on a short stalk, ripening in late fall and often produced in great abundance be the female plants.


Light gray, smooth or leathery, sometimes developing thin scales and blotches on larger stems.


Wood is of little commercial value except for fuel; plants are commonly sold in the nursery trade as a landscape specimen.

Similar Species:

Chinese privet (Ligustrum sinense) has opposite leaves and a spike of small, blue fruits.

Interesting Facts:

Yaupon leaves contains a small amount of caffeine and can be steeped into a weak tea. They also have been used ceremonially by native Americans as a purgative called the "Black Drink,", thus providing the source for the Latin species name, 'vomitoria.' The berries are favored by several bird species.

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