2017

 
 

Yaupon, or Yaupon Holly, is a holly native to the southeast of the United States. It’s not only beautiful but one of the toughest, small evergreens in existence with a long and interesting lore.

Its botanical name is Ilex vomitoria, which is unfortunate as some people may assume it’s toxic. However, that is not entirely accurate. Native Americans used Yaupon to make a purgative for ritual purposes and it was at that time when a botanist designated it vomitoria. It does not however, cause vomiting. On the contrary it’s quite safe and possesses similar caffeine levels to tea, and more antioxidants than blueberries. The drink made from the leaves is both healthy as well as delicious.

In addition to a beneficial tea for human consumption, a Yaupon is a must-have for the wildlife friendly garden as its berries are eagerly consumed by birds and small animals alike.

But it is probably the sheer beauty of this tree that is the reason it's planted most often. Yaupon, as a small tree, usually only reaches 25 feet or so, perhaps a little taller in the North American forests. It is slow growing, but after about 10 years it develops a handsome, vase-shaped form. And there are some cultivars with a heavily weeping habit that, when loaded with fruit, are stunning. The leaves are quite pretty as well and so different from English or American holly. These leaves are alternate, simple, with nicely scalloped edges. They're so small as to be petite, approximately 1 inch, and a handsome, dark grey-green. They are are so small that they cast a very light shade making it easy to garden under. But the most noteworthy asset of Yaupon is the scarlet, round and fleshy fruit. They are small, less than half an inch, but are borne so abundantly that they smother the twigs. They're also persistent which makes the the Yaupon one of the stars of the winter garden. But like most hollies, the berries will only be produced on female trees. Yaupon also has small white flowers in spring. They are inconspicuous, but are loved by bees who can feed off of them for weeks.

Yaupon also takes shearing well and is often adapted to hedging and privacy screens. But perhaps the tree's greatest asset is its adaptability. This beautiful, small evergreen, so perfectly suited for courtyard or foundation planting, can grow in areas periodically flooded or prone to drought, on acid or alkaline soil, on woodland edge or along the seashore. And it's not bothered by disease or urban pollution. Its one limitation is cold tolerance. Its native range is the southern half of the United States and further north up the moderate coastal regions. It will also do well in the warmest parts of Britain but it’s especially well-suited to Australia and New Zealand.

Yaupon has produced a vast number of cultivars. Some of the newer creations are more shrub-like, some have gold or yellow berries, some are rounded and others weeping. The better types will only be found in specialty tree nurseries.

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Yaupon

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