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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Happy Holly-days

My Yaupon Holly Christmas Tree! Photo by Laurie Sheldon.
By Barbara Jackson

In search of a Florida native holiday tree, I found the perfect one: Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria). The form of this evergreen small tree, or large shrub, is upright, with multiple stems, making it perfect for holiday ornaments. I purchased one around 6 feet tall, and will plant it in my landscape after December.

The female Yaupon Holly produces small red berries in the fall and winter, if a male specimen is close by. The fruit is attractive to birds and other small mammals when natural food supplies are dwindling. It also produces dense clusters of tiny white flowers in the spring, and attracts pollinators. This holly is fairly fast growing, highly salt tolerant, and is also noted for its high hurricane wind resistance. It will reach a height between 8 and 25 feet tall and spread 5 to 15 feet. It can be planted as a single specimen, or kept in pruned hedges. Yaupon Holly is highly drought tolerant once established and will grow in full sun or part shade. It can be propagated from stem cuttings. According to Gil Nelson in his book Florida’s Best Landscape Plants, there are “more than 30 cultivars known, 8 of which are available in Florida.”

According to a Wikipedia article, “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).” While this plant may not induce vomiting, it is toxic to humans and the berries should not be consumed, nor should anyone try to brew a tea. But many birds will enjoy the berries, especially in the winter, when you plant this tree in your yard.

Yaupon Holly may be purchased at many nurseries around the state. The PlantRealFlorida.org website of FANN (Florida Association of Native Nurseries) indicates that a number of their members show it as being in stock.

So have a Merry Yaupon Holly Christmas Tree!





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