Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 53 Ilex vomitoria

Common Names: yaupon, yaupon holly Family: Aquifoliaceae (holly Family)
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Immature yaupon holly berries are bright red and brilliant against a blue winter sky. They will darken as they mature (if the birds don't eat them before that)


The yaupon holly is an evergreen shrub or small tree that grows 20-25 ft (6.1-7.6 m) in height. It typically produces multiple stems to form dense shrubby clumps. The yaupon has simple, leathery, dark green leaves leaves that are held alternately on the branches. Leaves are oval shape, usually about 0.25-1 in (0.6-2.5 cm) and crenate (like sawteeth) along the edges. Yaupon is dioecious which means that male and female flowers are born on separate plants. The tiny white flower appear in spring in great numbers and are borne in the leaf axils, close against the stem. Female flowers are following by small bright red berries that persist on the trees through fall and winter. The bark is smooth and gray and is often mottled with yellow-green patches of lichen.

'Pendula' is a weeping cultivar of yaupon holly. This one in Steve's garden has rocketed to about 10 ft (3.1 m) high in just a couple of years.


Yaupon inhabits a variety of habitats from dry sand hills to swamps to coastal regions in the southeastern United States, from southern Virginia to central Florida, and west to Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas.


Yaupon tolerates a variety of soils. It is also salt tolerant and can be used near the coast. Light: Full sun to shade. Plants are more compact with denser foliage when grown in the sun. Moisture: Not particular and will thrive in well drained to wet environment. Drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 8 - 10. Propagation: By seed or dig suckers. For selected varieties, propagate by cuttings to to preserve desirable attributes.


The yaupon is commonly grown as a trimmed hedge, screen or windbreak. When used as an enclosing barrier, it is planted approximately 5 ft (12.7 m) apart and allowed to grow together. Dwarf varieties like 'Nana' are available that are perfect for foundation plantings and their drought and disease resistance make them ideal candidates for low maintenance commercial landscapes. Use yaupon holly in natural plantings and whenever possible plant a few to provide food and shelter for birds and wildlife. Yaupon holly's fast growth rate and small leaves make it a perfect choice for topiary.

Jack likes to carve the yaupons that grow at his place into funny shapes like this yaupon "screw".


Its dark green, evergreen leaves and bright red berries make this shrub quite decorative. Yaupon is very tolerant of a variety of site conditions. The leaves of this shrub are emetic (cause vomiting) and purgative. Native Americans used yaupon as a ceremonial intoxicant and for medicinal purposes. An infusion from the young leaves and twig tips, called black drink by some tribes, contains caffeine and other compounds (some of which may be mildly toxic). It has been used as a beverage since the beginning of history.

The yaupon holly berries provides an important source of food for birds and other wildlife in late winter when there's not a lot of other things to eat. They in turn, are kind enough to disperse the seeds of this fine plant far and wide but especially under utility lines, fences and other roosting spots. To encourage migratory birds to stop at my place I encourage the yaupon (which is native to North Florida) and plant other native fruiting species like Carolina cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana) and wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).

Jack Scheper 6/7/97; updated 1/5/01, 2/9/04, 12/29/04

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Ilex species profiled on Floridata:

Ilex 'Mary Nell'

( Mary Nell holly, Mary Nelle holly )

Ilex cassine

( Dahoon holly )

Ilex crenata

( Japanese holly,box-leaved holly,boxleaf holly )

Ilex decidua

( possumhaw, possum haw )

Ilex glabra

( gallberry, inkberry, bitter gallberry, evergreen winterberry, inkberry holly, Appalachian tea )

Ilex myrtifolia

( myrtleleaf holly, myrtle holly, myrtle dahoon, myrtleleaf dahoon )

Ilex opaca

( American holly )

Ilex verticillata

( common winterberry, black alder, coralberry, Michigan holly )

Ilex vomitoria

( yaupon, yaupon holly )

Ilex x 'Nellie R. Stevens'

( Nellie Stevens holly )

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