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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 Virginia south to Florida and west to Oklahoma (extreme southeast only)Oklahoma Biological Survey: Ilex vomitoria and Texas, and in Mexico in Chiapas.Germplasm Resources Information Network: Ilex vomitoriaIt 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 or red (occasionally yellow) drupe 4-6 mm diameter containing four seeds, 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.USDA Plant Guide: yaupon Ilex vomitoria (doc file)Florida Department of Environmental Protection: [http://www.dep.state.fl.us/water/wetlands/delineation/featuredplants/ilex.htm Florida's Hollies]Martin, C. O., & Mott, S. P. (1997). Yaupon (Ilex vomitoria): Section 7.5.10,U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wildlife Resources Management Manual. Technical Report EL-97-16, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS. Available online (pdf file)Bioimages: Ilex vomitoria
EcologyIt generally occurs in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils, and can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods.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 usesNative Americans used the leaves and stems to brew a tea called asi or black drink for male-only purification and unity rituals. The ceremony included vomiting, and Europeans incorrectly believed that it was the drink itself 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.Hudson, C. M. (1976). The Southeastern Indians. University of Tennessee Press ISBN 0-87049-248-9.
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