To help you create bird friendly habitat in your landscape, we are spotlighting a native plant every month that is beneficial to birds and pollinators.
This month's plant is:
Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria)
This is an evergreen shrub which can reach 25 to 30 feet in height and is one of the easiest wildlife plants for you to grow in your yard. Its native range is from coastal New Jersey south to Florida and west to Texas. It is one of the most adaptable plants available as it grows in sun to part shade, in a wide variety of habitats from moist to dry, and is salt tolerant. It requires no maintenance, is drought tolerant, and can be pruned or shaped if so desired. It has an attractive whitish bark with small evergreen leaves. It produces small inconspicuous white flowers in the spring which attract many insects; the lovely red berries are produced in the fall on female plants. The berries are beloved by a number of bird species, including: mockingbirds, bluebirds, sapsuckers, flickers, cedar waxwings, catbirds, robins, and white-throated sparrows.
It is the only known indigenous plant in North America which produces caffeine. The Native Americans brewed the leaves and stems to make a tea which they drank in great quantities for purification and unity rituals and fasted from food. These rituals induced vomiting which led the Europeans to incorrectly believe that the plant caused vomiting and that is how it got this Latin name. In small amounts, the dried leaves produce a pleasant tea which is now commercially available as well.
For additional information on native plants for birds, check out Audubon's excellent Plants for Birds website: Audubon.org/plantsforbirds.
For local sources of native plants, check with the Ixia Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society. They often have native plants as well as cuttings available at their monthly meetings on the first Tuesday of each month. Check out their Events Calendar for all of their upcoming activities.
--Jody Willis, President, Duval Audubon Society