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.)

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Why don’t my crape myrtles bloom?

My question is about crepe myrtles.   Mine look awful, they do not always flower,  the buds seem to just turn brown each and every year, some flower, but some do not.   And yet I pass by some homes and business and theirs seem to flourish !   Could it be I should replant them and maybe feed them something special ?  – Yvonne

Master Gardener Angela responds: 

Excerpt from:
“Crape Myrtles for Central Texas Landscapes
by Skip Richter, Travis County Extension Horticulturist / Texas Cooperative Extension

Crapes love sunlight, preferably at least 6 hours of direct sun. Although tolerant of a range of soil types, they perform best when provided good drainage. Work some compost into the soil throughout the planting area, rather than just in the planting hole. They will grow and bloom better with some extra nutrition. Select a fertilizer low in phosphorus (the middle number) for best results. A 3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio product works fine. Apply a light application of fertilizer in late February or early March. If they lack vigor, they may benefit from another application in May. Keep them mulched to discourage weed competition and protect the soil surface.

Also, several articles suggest that many people over-prune their crape myrtles.  Very little pruning is needed on a crape myrtle.  Prune only to remove dead wood, broken branches, or suckers that appear at the base of the plant or along the trunk in the spring. When pruning a young crape myrtle, select 3-7 permanent trunks.  Seed pods do not need to be removed, but can promote faster re-blooming in summer. 

Information taken from the article “Stop the Crape Murder” by Greg Grant, Research Associate, Piney Woods Native Plant Center, Stephen F. Austin State University Nacogdoches, Texas

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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   

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