Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Holly

Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomatoria) – by Heidi Linnemann,  Cameron County Master Gardener

One of the easiest to grow and most versatile of our native plants, you will enjoy adding the Yaupon Holly to your landscape.  Unlike the Christmas cactus we featured last month, the Yaupon takes no coddling or special treatment. The Yaupon sends down a tap root, making it drought and heat tolerant. It will grow in any soil, in full sun or shade (though the berries are better when the tree gets at least half a day of sun) – you don’t need a green thumb to enjoy this tree! 

The Yaupon is an evergreen, with glossy dark green leaves and a

Yaupon Fruit

pale grayish bark. It has small insignificant flowers in the spring, but is best known for the shiny red (or sometimes yellow) berries that cover the tree from late summer through fall. Note that it is only the female of the species that will bear fruit. Because this is one of the primary attractions of this tree, varieties sold in local garden centers are usually females.

There are cultivars of the Yaupon that come in any form you might desire. Dwarf cultivars (‘Nana’, ‘Stokes’s Dwarf’ and ‘Shilling’s Dwarf’) will grow to 5’ tall and spread 8’-10’.  If left alone, they will form into a rounded tall shrub, but can be easily trimmed to be a hedge. A columnar cultivar (‘Will Fleming’) and a weeping cultivar (‘Pendula’) are also available. The Yaupon can be trimmed to be single or multi-trunked, and in the wild it develops as a dense thicket offering birds great protection from enemies and elements.

Henry's Elfin Butterfly

Mockingbirds love this tree, and will flock to its fruit. The Yaupon is also a caterpillar host plant for the Henrys Elfin butterfly.

The scientific name of the Yaupon refers to the fact that Indians used the caffeine rich leaves and twigs of this tree to make a strong tea called Asi or ‘black drink’. They would drink this in large quantities and then vomit it back up. (Rest assured that this was self induced. The plant itself is not toxic.)


Quinta Mazatlan

Quinta Mazatlan

A group of Cameron County Master Gardeners visited McAllen’s Quinta Mazatlan to tour their gardens.     Along the walking trails, are mainly native plantings.      The one native that was new to all of us was brush holly, Xylosma flexuosa.   It was covered in beautiful yellow, orange and red berries. 

Our tour guide, John Bush

Thanks to John Bush for sharing great info about the mostly plant material and history of the garden.   John pointed out the scale on this cactus.  When crushed it exudes a red substance, which is used in many natural dyes.  In face, some people grow prickly pear cactus strictly to attract this particular scale. 

Zurly and Bill

The house and patio area are planted with palms and tropicals (and a few natives tossed in).   Zurly and husband, Bill, posed underneath a beautiful Golden Shower Tree, Cassia fistula.   We were told that in May, it was completey covered in the golden blooms. 

Bloom from a Golden Shower Tree

Quinta Mazatlan had some lovely areas to picnic in. 

If anyone had any pictures they would like to post, send them to cameroncountymastergardeners@gmail.com   


Butterflies, dragonflies, hummingbirds, & bees

In spite of our high temperatures, the plantings at The Arboretum are fairing well.   During Tuesday’s workday, we were able to take a few pics to share.   
Entrance to the outdoor classroom

Succulent Bed near the Compost Demonstration Site

I’m not sure who planted this succulent bed surrounding one of the mesquite trees, Prosopis glandulosa, but it’s looking great.    These various aloes, yuccas, and succulents are thriving in the filtered light and unammended soil. 

Ruellia or Mexican petunia

Ruellia or Mexican petunia

Ruellia, also known as Mexican petunia or wild petunia,  is perfect in these locations.   It is a vigorous self-seeder and considered a nuisance by some gardeners.   Don’t let it get established where you don’t want it!  It has deep roots and brittle stems that tend to break when you try to pull it out. 


Ruellia, aka Mexican or Wild Petunia

Ruellia also looks great edging the Outdoor Classroom.


Zinnias at the entrance bed

Zinnias and common sunflowers

Although we’ve let the grass and weeds get out of hand, these zinnias and sunflowers are still very welcoming.  

Butterfly on Butterfly Weed

And for those of you who are wondering about the title of this post.  We saw tons of butterflies, dragonflies, bees and one hummingbird.   The little beauty above was working the butterfly weed.   Butterfly weed is a nectar plant.  It blooms on new growth so you don’t have to worry about pruning.  It’s a self-seeder and will spread easily.