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Ilex vomitoria

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

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

Yaupon is fast growing evergreen shrub or small tree in the Aquifoliaceae (holly) family, native to the eastern USA.  It is primarily found in coastal NC in sandy woodlands, shorelines, and shrub thickets.  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.

It can reach 10 to 20 feet tall, sometimes as tall as 30 feet, and 8-12 feet wide.  This shrub is dioecious meaning it has separate male and female plants.  To achieve the attractive bright red signature red fruits both male and female shrubs must be planted. 

Plant in average well-drained soils in sun to 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 both drought, salt spray, and occasional flooding. This plant can take heavy pruning, transplants easily, and is resistant to Phytophthora root rot.   It root cuskers easily and if those suckers are left unpruned, it will form a thicket.  

The leaves are small, leathery and bright green and are not prickly like other hollies. They provide a larval food source to butterflies.  Tiny white fragrant, nectar-rich, flowers appear in spring on separate male and female plants. The flowers are very attractive to pollinators like bees and butterflies. If fertilized, female shrubs produce showy red drupes in fall, persisting through winter, and those fruits are enjoyed by songbirds and small mammals. The plant will form thickets unless suckers are removed.

Take advantage of the showy red fruits and use this plant as a specimen.  Its small evergreen leaves make it deal for sheering into a screen or hedge, or use it in topary.  The tightly packed leaves also work well as a windbreak or barrier planting.  Because of its height it can add dark green color the back of a border.  This plant also does well in large containers.  There are dwarf and weeping cultivars available.

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, 1" long, 1/2" 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, or Other Plant Problems:  No insect or disease problems when planted in their native habitat.  Holly leaf miner, spider mites, whitefly, and scale are occasional problems. Leaf spot, leaf rot, tar spot, and powdery mildew are potential disease problems.

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 landscapes:
Foundation Planting- West Side of House
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aureo', 'Bordeaux', 'Folsom's Weeping', 'Jewel', 'Nana', 'Otis Miley', 'Pendula' or 'Grey's Weeping', 'Pride of Houston', 'Schelling's Dwarf', 'Stokes Dwarf', 'Taylor's Rudolph', 'Virginia Dare' , 'Wiggins' Yellow', 'Will Fleming'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#small tree#rain garden#specimen#wildlife plant#nectar plant#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#standing water tolerant#showy fruits#hedges#specialized bees#disease resistant#food source wildlife#fast growing#privacy#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#pest resistant#thickets#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#nectar plant spring#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 mid-spring#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
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
'Aureo', 'Bordeaux', 'Folsom's Weeping', 'Jewel', 'Nana', 'Otis Miley', 'Pendula' or 'Grey's Weeping', 'Pride of Houston', 'Schelling's Dwarf', 'Stokes Dwarf', 'Taylor's Rudolph', 'Virginia Dare' , 'Wiggins' Yellow', 'Will Fleming'
Tags:
#fragrant#evergreen#small tree#rain garden#specimen#wildlife plant#nectar plant#salt tolerant#cover plant#winter interest#windbreak#security plant#standing water tolerant#showy fruits#hedges#specialized bees#disease resistant#food source wildlife#fast growing#privacy#highly beneficial coastal plants#salt spray tolerant#fire high flammability#pest resistant#thickets#screening#pollinator plant#fantz#larval host plant#nectar plant spring#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 mid-spring#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
  • 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
    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:
    7b, 7a, 8b, 8a, 9b, 9a
  • 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