Leaves and Fruit Holly Family


Genus Ilex is the only genus in family Aquifoliaceae of order Aquifoliales. Though containing somewhere between 400 and 600 species, there isn't anything to eat here. Most species in the family are at least mildly toxic, and some are quite toxic. A few, however, are used to make caffinated teas.   Photo of European holly by 4028mdk09 distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.


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Guayusa   -   [Ilex guayusa]
Collected Leaves

This tree, which grows to about 100 feet, is native to the Amazon Rainforest of Ecuador. Natives have long harvested the leaves, tied them into bundles and dried them to use in making a highly cafinated tea.

This leaf is now being promoted by the health food industry as yet another "super food". Powders are being used in a number of formulations. Aside from caffine, the leaves contain theobromine, usually found in chocolate, and substances similar to those found in green tea. They are also very high in antioxidants, much higher than green tea.   Photo by Anna Premo distributed under license Free Art License v1.3.

Yerbe Mate   -   [Yerbe mate (Spanish); Erva mate (Portuguese); Ilex paraguariensis]
Flowering Plant

Tis tree, which grows to about 49 feet, is native to southern Brazil and Paraguay. It's leaves are harvested to make a caffinated tea, often called "mate", which is very popular in central South America, particularly Uruguay, and also in Syria and Lebanon, imported from Argentina.

It is usually brewed in a gourd, and sipped through a metal straw. The gourd is filled 3/4 with dried leaves and water at 175°F/80°C or just a little cooler is poured in. Hotter water will make a bitter tea. Sugar may or may not be added. The gourd is often passed around in a group, with each person taking some sips through the straw, then topping it up with hot water and passing it on.   Photo from United States Botanic Garden distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

Kaushue   -   [ Ilex kaushue]
Dried Leaves, Tea

This tree, growing to about 28 feet, is native to most of China. Curled dried leaves are used to make a caffinated bitter tea called Ku Ding Cha, literally "bitter nails tea", said to have significant medicinal properties. In Sichuan and Japan this tea is more often made from a Privet, Ligustrum robustum, in which case it will not be caffinated.   Photo by Shizuha distributed under license Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported.

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©Andrew Grygus - agryg@clovegarden.com - Photos on this page not otherwise credited © cg1 - Linking to and non-commercial use of this page permitted