Ilex vomitoria Aiton

Aquifolaceae (Holly family)


Yaupon is an evergreen shrub in the Holly family. It will form a trunk when trimmed but usually grows as a woody, single or multi-trunked shrub. A native, cool and warm season perennial, this plant has branches that can range from 12 to 45 ft or 3.5 to 14 m tall, but it usually does not reach more than 25 ft or 7.5 m. The bark is smooth, pale gray, and has light gray to white patches.    The leaves are alternate, ovate, typically less than 1.5 inches or 40 mm long, dark green, with a lighter colored underside, and entire with toothed margins. The flowers are white and usually bloom from April through May. There are typically 2 to 3 male flowers clustered in fascicles within the axils of the leaves. There are 1 to 3 female flowers clustered in the fascicles of the leaf axils. The fruits are bright red at maturity, spherical, shiny, contain 4 nutlets, reach up to ¼ inch in diameter, and form dense clusters. There must be a male and female plant present, so the female plant can produce berries.    Yaupon provides good forage for wildlife and fair grazing for livestock. Many species of birds and mammals will eat the fruit. The flowers attract insects, and it is a larval host for the Henry’s Elfin butterfly. 


Yaupon commonly grows in moist, acidic soils in the eastern half of the state. It tolerates drought and poor drainage. Habitat types include coastal plains, maritime woodlands, sandy pinelands, and limestone uplands.