Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Yaupon is one of Florida's most colorful hollies, both in terms of its tiny wavy-edged evergreen leaves and bright-red berries and in terms of the folklore associated with it. Yaupon is often a tall shrub, but sometimes a tree up to about twenty feet tall. It's somewhat tolerant of salty air, sandy soils, and the frequent fires of natural southern pine forests. It's found primarily in coastal areas from East Texas to Virginia. In Florida, yaupon is native south to about Sarasota and along the Atlantic coast north from Brevard County. A small grove of yaupon used to occur just east of Naples in South Florida, possibly planted there by the Seminoles. That brings us to the yaupon's association with humans. Yaupon contains a lot of caffeine and Native Americans roasted the leaves and made a beverage called 'black drink', which they sipped in the morning as they sat in small groups discussing plans for the day. Sound familiar? Several cups consumed very quickly caused a person to vomit, and they believed that this was cleansing. The scientific name of the yaupon comes from this practice: Ilex vomitoria.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.