P1010157Ilex vomitoria Aiton

Tree,shrub; perennial

Native: L 48

Blooming:  February, March, white

Location:  N30 00.188’W084 32.870(.6RL),N 30 00.057’W084 33.272′(1.16RR), N 30 00.093’W084 33.305′(1.25RL),N 30 00.212’W0884 33.567′(1.64RR), N 30 00.499’W084 34.120′(2.43RL)

This plant is an evergreen and is native to Southeastern U.S.   In December it’s red berries and shiny leaves provide holiday greenery, but more important, the fruit (drupe) is eaten by birds:  Florida duck, American black duck, mourning dove, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, northern flicker, sapsuckers, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, American robin, gray catbird, northern mockingbird and white-throated sparrow.  The American black bear, armadillo, gray fox, skunk and raccoon also feed on the fruit.  White-tailed deer browse on young twigs and foliage.  Bees are the primary pollinators and the plant is a host for butterfly larvae.

A decoction of leaves and/or stems in a black “tea” was used in all-male fasting, purification and bonding rituals.   Early reports indicated that this infusion caused vomiting.  Scientists today are skeptical that the plant alone which has high concentration of caffeine and theobromine was the cause of the vomiting.  By itself or with other plants, it was used as an emetic, cathartic and even hallucinogen (Cherokee).   The Seminoles used the bark for “old people’s dance sickness” which manifested itself in nightmares and “waking up talking”.

The Seminoles also used the branches for arrows and ramrods.