Yaupon Holly(Ilex vomitoria)
The Cherokee used the Yaupon Holly for male only purification and unity rituals. They would prepare a tea from the leaves and stems which was called “black drink”. They would drink large quantities of this black drink until they would vomit, hence the name Ilex vomitoria. The reason this tea was so powerful is because the Yaupon has a very high degree of caffeine in the plant, in fact one of the highest of any plant. As a matter of fact, Yaupon is the only plant native to North America that contains caffeine.
The berries were food for Black Ducks, Grouse, Quail, and Wild Turkey. Foliage and twigs were eaten by deer. The Cherokee knew this and it made for easy hunting during the right time of the season.
The Yaupon Holly make a wonderful shrub or small tree for your own personal garden. It is readily available in your local nursery. The native Yaupon resembles a large shrub but there are many cultivars that are very similar to the native (Weeping Yaupon, Dwarf Yaupon are two examples). In our garden we love adding “berry producing plants” for the birds. It is wonderful to see how many birds now visit our garden because of our “Cherokee Garden”. Native plants not only support the birds, but they also attract Butterflies, and pollinators.
The Yaupon Holly is known by other common names such as Cassena, Evergreen Holly, and Christmas Berry. Yaupon is a native shrub that can grow up to 30 feet tall. The bark is smooth and light gray. The leaves are oval and grow in a alternate manner along the stem.