Yaupon
(Cassena - Christmas-berry - Black Tea)
Ilex vomitoria
Aquifoliaceae (Holly) Family

Yaupon is an evergreen, much-branched, thicket-forming shrub or small tree with rounded, open crown, small shiny leaves, and abundant, round, shiny red berries. Its height is rarely more than 20 feet with a trunk diameter of 6 inches.

The leaves are about 1/4 - 1.5 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide; elliptical; blunt at tip; rounded at base; finely wavy-toothed; thick and stiff; short-stalked. Shiny green above and paler beneath.

Flowers are tiny at about 3/16 inch wide with 4 spreading rounded white petals; on short stalks at base of old leaves. Male and female flowers are on separate plants.

Fruit is berry-like; 1/4 inch in diameter, shiny red, clustered along the twigs, short-stalked; bitter pulp; 4 narrow grooved nutlets; maturing in autumn and often remaining attached in winter.

The ornamental twigs with shiny leaves and red berries are favorite Christmas decorations. Yaupon is sometimes grown for ornament and trimmed into hedges. The leaves contain caffeine, and American Indians used them to prepare a tea to induce vomiting and as a laxative. Tribes from the interior travel to the coast in large numbers each spring to partake of the tonic called "black tea."

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