It’s not a secret that East Texas is one of the country’s great Yaupon-producing regions. More specifically, I was impressed by the scope and quantity of wild Yaupon in the Brazos Valley region and outside of Houston, near Katy and Magnolia. I found appreciable quantities of Yaupon all the way to Bastrop County, just outside of Austin, and it seemed to taper off from there, likely due to the increasingly rocky soil to the west of the Balcones Escarpment - where the beautiful Texas Hill Country begins, seems to be where the Yaupon mostly ends. Near Bastrop, fires scorched much of the landscape a few years back. Although it is commonly thought that Yaupon is not resistant to fire, it seems to have returned quickly to the landscape.
The obvious density and prevalence of Yaupon in this area is similar to our exploration of the central Florida Panhandle, where massive quantities of wild Yaupon can be found, especially in Washington, Liberty, and Bay Counties.
It is in these areas, whether Leon County, TX or Washington County, FL, where Yaupon is king. In the mind of every ranch hand or farmer, it’s a nuisance at best. The plant poses some fire hazard, and deer and cattle don't readily browse the leaves. The Texas Department of Agriculture recently promoted using diesel fuel as a means for Yaupon removal. Yikes!
Outside of these “hot pockets” Yaupon occurs more sporadically. It must compete with other vigorous plant species, thus limiting its dominance. These conditions, however, can yield some excellent quality Yaupon. Increased tree age and shade lead to larger leaf morphology; and a bigger leaf means easier processing and harvesting. In Florida, Yaupon does not occur commonly in the wild south of Lake Okeechobee, likely due to the absence of seasonally cool temperatures, which the seeds apparently require for germination.
Additionally, there is the possibility of genetic variation of Yaupon from different regions. Think camellia sinensis, but Darjeeling vs. Assamica, or coffee Arabica vs. Robusta. We’ll be working to figure this out. In the meantime, stay tuned for more Yaupon news!