Ilex vomitoria "Yaupon Holly". (*)
Ilex vomitoria Sol. ex Aiton
Hort. kew. 1:170. 1789
Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon Holly, Yaupon, or Cassina; the latter shared with Ilex cassine), is a species of holly native to southeastern North America, occurring in United States from Maryland south to Florida and west to Oklahoma (only in the extreme southeast) and Texas, and in Mexico in Chiapas.
It is an evergreen shrub or small tree reaching 5-9 m tall, with smooth, light gray bark and slender, hairy shoots. The leaves are alternate, ovate to elliptical with a rounded apex and crenate or coarsely serrated margin, 1-4.5 cm long and 1-2 cm broad, glossy dark green above, slightly paler below. The flowers are 5–5.5 mm diameter, with a white four-lobed corolla. The fruit is a small round, shiny, and red (occasionally yellow) drupe 4-6 mm diameter containing four pits, which are dispersed by birds eating the fruit. The species may be distinguished from the similar Ilex cassine by its smaller leaves with a rounded, not acute apex.
Food for birds
The fruit are an important food for many birds, including Florida Duck, American Black Duck, Mourning Dove, Ruffed Grouse, Bobwhite Quail, Wild Turkey, Northern Flicker, sapsuckers, Cedar waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, and White-throated Sparrow. Mammals that eat the fruit include Nine-banded Armadillo, American Black Bear, Gray Fox, raccoon and skunks. The foliage and twigs are browsed by White-tailed Deer.
Cultivation and uses
Native Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea, commonly thought to be called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was Ilex vomitoria that caused it (hence the Latin name). The active ingredient is actually caffeine, and the vomiting was either learned or as a result of the great quantities in which they drank the beverage coupled with fasting. Others believe the Europeans improperly assumed the black drink to be the tea made from Ilex vomitoria when it was likely an entirely different drink made from various roots and herbs and did have emetic properties.
1. ^ a b Oklahoma Biological Survey: Ilex vomitoria
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License