Monday, May 7, 2012

Plant ABCs - I is for Ilex Vomitoria

My series the ABCs of plants in my garden continues with the letter I.  I is for Ilex Vomitoria or Yaupon Holly.

What a name!  Vomitoria?  Apparently early European settlers thought the native populations used the leaves as a tea to induce vomiting.  That turned out to be a misunderstanding since the active ingredient in the leaves is caffeine.  I found a few secondary references to the tea still being available in St. Augustine, Florida, but could not find the tea for sale.

While the yaupon holly is native to Texas, it is not native to San Antonio or the Texas Hill Country.  It is one of the few varieties of holly that will reliably grow in our hot, dry environment here.  There were other holly varieties planted years ago in the neighborhood, but many bit the dust in the recent drought.  Those varieties also prefer acidic soil, so they do not do as well as yaupons in our limestone soil. 

The dwarf yaupon (Ilex vomitoria 'nana') is in my yard as a hedge, and this row along the front was planted by the original owners' landscaper.

Yaupon holly is evergreen and very drought tolerant, we only watered this hedge a few times during the recent drought and never water the native ones.  These have reached their mature size at around 3' high and we keep them naturally shaped by only trimming a few rangy branches now and then.
This one dwarf yaupon in the driveway island intrigues me since it was not part of the original landscaping and must have been planted by renters.

I kept it when we reworked this bed because it adds a green counterpoint to the mostly silvery plants here.  Just for fun, I keep it trimmed in a softly rounded shape to fit better with the style of this section of the garden.

The yaupon holly is also available in a very attractive weeping form (Ilex vomitoria 'pendula') and I have just the place for two of those which I plan to add in the fall.  The Ilex vomitoria has been a great plant for my garden.


  1. do you have leaf miners on the dwarf. Have you ever seen the natives growin out in the wild near Houston. They are huge and noxious to the ranchers. During the 70's and 80's the multi-trunk Yaupons were very popular in the landscape trade as accent plants. They became so over used kind of like crape myrtles down south.

    1. I've never seen any problems with the dwarf yaupons. They've been there more than 20 years.

      Houston is my hometown and I have been amazed at the forests of them that have grown up around the city. It seems almost every undeveloped space is dense with them and I don't remember that from years ago. Crape myrtles were almost a weed in Alabama.

      There are very few things that are invasive here because our soil is so rocky.

  2. Yaupons are one great dwarf tree or bones type-of-shrub that deserves more use in Abq. Most of the landscapes having them here are national businesses based in TX, whose LA's probably design them in...local landscrapers often unaware of Yaupon and some other plants.

    Your pics show some great uses, and sound perfect for dry shade...and rocky soil. Taking last summer there tells me how tough it is...nice to know how it performed relative to other hollies. But the form on your 10' favorite!

  3. Nice post and I also like the Yaupon Holly very much! I like the photo with the dwarf and the silver leaf plant--that's a nice combination.

  4. Good post.
    We planted some dwarfs in the front bed. We'll try to keep them low and rounded...that's the plan, anyway, since they'll be a front edge. I'm hoping it works.
    We had a tree form at our old place. It was always full of berries. The Mockingbirds loved it.
    Your alphabet is coming right along.

  5. Hi Shirley! The yaupons grow wild in Houston as well. You really notice them when they are in fruit, because then they seem to really brighten up some of the wild areas near my home. I know the birds are happy to see the fruits as well.

  6. We have lots of holly bushes around here, not your variety though. Do you get the Holly Blue butterfly ? We get them regularly these days. Didn't used to.


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