Sunday, February 15, 2009

Yaupon

Today was a work day at our camp where I cleared brush that had accumulated around the perimeter of the barn. It had gotten so thick I was unable to walk around it. I trimmed back a dense hedgerow of yaupons (Ilex vomitoria) that were covered in fruit and hated to see its tiny beautiful red berries go to waste so I culled them from all of the trimmings and put them into an olive jar to take home. I'll put them out for the local birds which I’m sure will be delighted.
Wildlife benefits in several ways from the presence of this evergreen holly. It grows really thick providing excellent cover for wildlife to hide and good concealment for bird's nests. In the spring they are covered with tiny white flowers followed by the production of beautiful red berries in the fall. These berries (on the female plant only) are present throughout winter providing food for all types of birds- bluebirds, waxwings, mockingbirds, cardinals, thrashers, robins to name a few. Mammals such as raccoons, opposums, foxes, and skunks also eat them and its foliage is an important browse for white-tailed deer. It belongs to the species vomitoria for good reason- Native Americans made a tea-like drink from its caffeine containing bark, leaves, and berries to induce vomiting and to act as a laxative. (It is suggested that no part of this plant be consumed by humans because of this). Its wood was also a good source for making arrows and ramrods for hunting for fishing.

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