Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Holly Family (Aquifoliaceae). Yaupon is a native, perennial, evergreen shrub or a small tree (8 m tall). The leathery leaf blades (1 to 2.5 cm long) are alternate, elliptical or oval with shallow teeth at the margins. The upper surface is a lustrous green with a lighter green lower surface. The leaves contain caffeine. Yaupon is the only native plant in North America that contains caffeine. Flowers (5 to 5.5 mm) with four greenish white petals appear from March through May. Blooms appear on axillary clusters on year-old wood. Male flowers appear in clusters while female flowers grow either solitarily or in pairs. Young stems are covered with a purplish down which changes to whitish gray with age. The bark is light in color, from white to gray. The heartwood is hard and close-grained. Female plants have beautiful, round fruits that are a translucent red (5 to 6 mm in diameter) and contain four nutlets. The fruits frequently stay on the bush until the following spring.
Distribution: Yaupon occurs in the Coastal Plain of the Southeastern United States. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: Yaupon generally occurs in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils. It can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods.