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Ilex vomitoria

This plant has poison characteristics. See below.
Common Name(s):
Yaupon holly
'Virginia Dare' , 'Stokes Dwarf', 'Will Flemming', 'Pendula' - weeping form, 'Nana' - dwarf, 'Bordeaux'
Native Plants, Poisonous Plants, Shrubs, Trees

Ilex vomitoria, commonly known as Yaupon, is native to a variety of areas including sandy woods, dunes, open fields, forest edges and wet swamps, often along the coastal plain and maritime forests, from Virginia to Florida, Arkansas and Texas. This is a thicket-forming, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows in an upright, irregularly branched form to 10-20’ tall and to 10’ wide, but may grow taller in optimum conditions. The bark is thin, smooth and light gray. As the tree ages, the bark might become a bit scaly.

This plant is highly salt tolerant.

Native American Indians used the leaves to make a ceremonial emetic drink which, when consumed in large quantities, caused a cleansing now memorialized by the specific epithet.

Genus name comes from the Latin name Quercus ilex for holm oak in reference to the foliage similarities (holm oak and many of the shrubs in the genus Ilex have evergreen leaves).

Specific epithet refers to the emetic quality of the leaves.

I. decidua and I. opaca will cross pollinate to produce beautiful bright red fruits in the fall that persist into winter. It is usually multitrunked. Drought, salt and wet site tolerant. It makes a good screen plant and it transplants easily.

Regions:  Coastal Plains

Seasons of Interest: 

  Blooms:  Early spring, spring            Nut/Fruit/Seed:  Winter

Wildlife Value: It is a host plant for the Henry's Elfin butterfly.  Butterflies nectar at the blooms.  The fruits are eaten by songbirds and small mammals.  Also provides winter cover. Members of the genus Ilex support the following specialized bee: Colletes banksiThis plant is highly resistant to damage from deer.

Insects, Diseases, or Other Plant Problems: In their native habitat, this plant has good resistance to insects and diseases. Potential insect problems include holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly and scale. Potential disease problems include leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot and powdery mildew.

10-20 ft.
Glossy dark green leaves up to 1.5 inches long
The Yaupon holly has small greenish-white flowers that appear on male and female plants in the spring (April). The flowers are fragrant but generally inconspicuous. Pollinated flowers on female plants give way to berry-like red (infrequently yellow) fruits (1/4” diameter) which ripen in fall and persist into winter. Birds are attracted to the fruit.
For best results, grow in average, medium to wet soils in full sun to part shade. In its native habitat, it grows in dry to wet conditions, in a variety of soils and in sun or shade. It generally tolerates more drought than most other hollies. Prune in winter if needed. Plants of this species are dioecious (separate male and female plants). Female plants need a male pollinator in the area in order to bear fruit. Promptly remove root suckers unless naturalization is desired. This species has been known to tolerate flooded conditions for extended periods of time.
Medium to fine
Upright, semi-globular/irregular; multistemmed
Sun to partial shade; tolerates a range of soil types (dry, moist)
Small white flowers in spring; small, shiny red-orange berries clustered along the stems of female plants that persist into the
Coastal Plain; cultivated
Poison Part:
Poison Delivery Mode:
Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
EDIBLE PARTS: The young leaves may be picked, browned and dried in an oven, steeped in hot water and used to make Yaupon tea. It contains caffiene.
Toxic Principle:
Illicin, possibly saponic glycosides, and triterpenoids
Found in:
Forest or natural areas along coast, low maritime forests; landscape as cultivated small trees and shrubs
8-12 ft.
Growth Rate:
The Yaupon holly has elliptic to ovate-oblong, alternate, simple, lleathery, glossy, evergreen, dark green leaves (to 1.5” long) with toothed margins.
berries, wet sites, bees, winter cover, pollinator, fragrant, host, salt tolerant, larval, deer resistant, showy, birds, highly beneficial coastal plants, coastal, wildlife, evergreen, specialized bees, rain garden, wet, butterfly, wet soil, winter interest

NCCES plant id: 494

Ilex vomitoria Fruit
Ilex vomitoria Fruit and leaves
Mary Keim, CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Ilex vomitoria Bud and flower detail
Camelia TWU , CC BY-NC-SA - 2.0
Ilex vomitoria Flowers
Eleanor, CC BY-NC-2.0
Ilex vomitoria Leaves
G.D. Rainwater, CC BY-NC-ND - 2.0
Ilex vomitoria Fruit and leaves
Scott Zona, CC BY-NC-2.0