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Ilex vomitoria

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Ilex ligustrina
Phonetic Spelling
EYE-leks vom-ih-TOR-ee-ah
This plant has low severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Yaupon holly is a woody, broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree in the holly family (Aquifoliaceae), native to the eastern United States and Mexico. The genus name Ilex is in reference to the similarity of the evergreen leaves to Quercus ilex or holm oak. The leaves of the parent plant were used for ceremonial tea, which, when consumed in large quantities, caused a cleansing now memorialized by the specific epithet vomitoria.

Plant yaupon holly in full sun to deep shade, though it will produce more fruit and have a thicker canopy with more sun. It is tolerant of a wide range of soil types and can withstand drought, salt spray, and occasional flooding. This plant can take heavy pruning, transplants easily, and is resistant to Phytophthora root rot. Propagate by seed or stem cutting. It is dioecious, meaning it has separate male and female plants. So, to achieve the attractive bright red signature fruits both male and female shrubs that bloom in the same time period must be planted. 

The leaves are small, leathery and bright green and are not prickly like other hollies. The flowers attract bees and butterflies. This holly can rapidly reach 10 to 20 feet tall and 8 to 12 feet wide, so allow proper spacing when planting multiples. It will form thickets unless the suckers are removed. 

Yaupon holly has many cultivars including dwarf and weeping forms. It also has many uses in the landscape: Consider it for drought tolerant, native, pollinator, rain, water, or winter gardens. Take advantage of the showy red fruits, which are enjoyed by songbirds and small mammals, and use this shrub as a specimen in the ground or in a large container. Mass planted, it is ideal for shearing into a screen, hedge, or topiary, and it makes a great foundation planting. The tightly packed leaves also work well as a windbreak or barrier planting. It is at home in coastal, woodland, or naturalized areas. 

Fire Risk: This plant has a high flammability rating and should not be planted within the defensible space of your home. Select plants with a low flammability rating for the sites nearest your home. 

 Quick ID Hints:

  • Leaves are alternate, one inch long, and half an inch wide with rounded apex and base.

  • Very young stems are purplish in color and turn silvery-gray as they age.

  • Petioles are purplish.

  • Produces translucent red berries.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: Holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly, and scale are occasional problems. Leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot, and powdery mildew are potential disease problems.

The Clemson Cooperative Extension Home and Garden Information Center has a factsheet on common diseases and insect pests.

Additional Video: Yaupon holly part of a series of Native Plant Picks from the North Carolina Sea Grant Coastal Landscapes Initiative.

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscape:
West Side Foundation Planting in Cabarrus County
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aurea', Bordeaux™ ('Condeaux'), 'Dare County' (syn. 'Virginia Dare'), 'Dwarf' (syn. 'Nana'), 'Folsom's Weeping' (syn. 'Gray's Weeping'), 'Jewel', 'Otis Miley', 'Pride of Houston', 'Stokes Dwarf' (syn. Schilling's Dwarf'), 'Taylor's Rudolph', 'Wiggins' (syn. 'Wiggins Yellow'), 'Will Fleming' (syn. 'Will's Upright')
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#small tree#rain garden#specimen#nectar plant#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#standing water tolerant#showy fruits#specialized bees#disease resistant#fast growing#privacy#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#NC native#pest resistant#thickets#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#nectar plant spring#NC Native Pollinator Plant#border back#food source nectar#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant midspring#nectar plant early spring#cover plant winter#flood tolerant#bee friendly#Audubon#pruning tolerant#container plant#coastal plant#barrier#food source winter#landscape plant sleuths course#holly azure butterfly#hedge#wildlife friendly#cpp
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aurea', Bordeaux™ ('Condeaux'), 'Dare County' (syn. 'Virginia Dare'), 'Dwarf' (syn. 'Nana'), 'Folsom's Weeping' (syn. 'Gray's Weeping'), 'Jewel', 'Otis Miley', 'Pride of Houston', 'Stokes Dwarf' (syn. Schilling's Dwarf'), 'Taylor's Rudolph', 'Wiggins' (syn. 'Wiggins Yellow'), 'Will Fleming' (syn. 'Will's Upright')
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#small tree#rain garden#specimen#nectar plant#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#standing water tolerant#showy fruits#specialized bees#disease resistant#fast growing#privacy#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#NC native#pest resistant#thickets#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#nectar plant spring#NC Native Pollinator Plant#border back#food source nectar#Coastal FAC#Piedmont Mountains FAC#urban conditions tolerant#wet soils tolerant#bird friendly#nectar plant late spring#food source soft mast fruit#butterfly friendly#nectar plant midspring#nectar plant early spring#cover plant winter#flood tolerant#bee friendly#Audubon#pruning tolerant#container plant#coastal plant#barrier#food source winter#landscape plant sleuths course#holly azure butterfly#hedge#wildlife friendly#cpp
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ilex
    Species:
    vomitoria
    Family:
    Aquifoliaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    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. Also contains caffeine.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    USA to Mexico
    Distribution:
    AL , AR , FL , GA , LA , MS , NC , OK , SC , TX , VA
    Fire Risk Rating:
    high flammability
    Wildlife Value:
    It is a larval host plant for the Henry's Elfin, and Holly Azure butterfly. Butterflies and other pollinators 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 banksi.
    Play Value:
    Wildlife Food Source
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    This plant is highly resistant to damage from deer and salt tolerant. Resistant to Phytophthora root rot.
    Edibility:
    The young leaves may be picked, browned and dried in an oven, steeped in hot water and used to make Yaupon tea. It contains caffeine.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 10 ft. 0 in. - 20 ft. 6 in.
    Width: 8 ft. 0 in. - 12 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Native Plant
    Perennial
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Tree
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Multi-trunked
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Texture:
    Fine
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    High Organic Matter
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Alkaline (>8.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasional Flooding
    Occasionally Dry
    Occasionally Wet
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    1/4 inch red drupes in clusters mature in fall and persist into winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Green
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Insignificant
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Small greenish-white flowers that appear on male and female plants in the spring (April). The flowers are fragrant but generally inconspicuous. They grow solitary or in pairs and are clustered on peduncles in leaf axils. Blooms from March to May.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Good Cut
    Long-lasting
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    < 1 inch
    Leaf Description:
    1.5-inch oval leaves are glossy green and leathery with toothed margins and rounded at base and tip.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Gray
    White
    Surface/Attachment:
    Smooth
    Bark Description:
    Thin, smooth and light gray to almost white. As the tree ages, the bark might become a bit scaly.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Purple/Lavender
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Young stems are purple and turn gray to white-gray as they age.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Coastal
    Container
    Naturalized Area
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Rain Garden
    Water Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Barrier
    Border
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Security
    Small Tree
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Small Mammals
    Songbirds
    Specialized Bees
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Diseases
    Drought
    Salt
    Wet Soil
    Wind
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Low
    Poison Symptoms:
    Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Illicin, possibly saponic glycosides, and triterpenoids
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits