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An evergreen shrub, sometimes a small tree, 15 to 20 ft high; young shoots rigid, spreading, covered with a minute down. Leaves glabrous, glossy dark green, narrowly oval or inclined to ovate, tapered at the base, bluntish at the apex, the margin shallowly and remotely toothed, 1⁄2 to 11⁄2 in. long, 1⁄4 to 3⁄4 in. wide; stalk 1⁄12 to 1⁄8 in. long, downy like the young wood. Flowers produced in axillary clusters on the year-old wood, the males numerous and on stalks 1⁄8 in. long; females solitary or in pairs. Fruits scarlet, round, 3⁄16 in. in diameter.
Native of the south-eastern United States; introduced before 1700. A neat evergreen shrub something like a phillyrea in appearance, but incapable of withstanding our hardest winters.
The epithet vomitoria refers to the use to which the leaves were put by the Indians. At certain times of the year they would forgather on the coast where the holly was abundant and, having made an infusion of the leaves, ‘they begin drinking large drafts, which in a very short time vomit them severely; thus they continue drinking and vomiting, for the space of two or three days, until they have sufficiently cleansed themselves; then they gather every one a bundle of the shrub to carry away with them, and retire to their habitations’ (Miller, Gard. Diet. (1768), under Cassine paragua).