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An evergreen shrub or small tree (can reach to 6 meters or 20 ft) with bright red berries. Ripen in fall and will persist into winter. The leaves are alternate, ovate to elliptical with a rounded apex and crenate or coarsely serrated margin, 1–4.5 cm long and 1–2 cm broad, glossy dark green above (pic 3).
Spotted in coastal dune habitat. Found in much of the southeastern United States. It generally occurs in coastal areas in well-drained sandy soils, and can be found on the upper edges of brackish and salt marshes, sandy hammocks, coastal sand dunes, inner-dune depressions, sandhills, maritime forests, nontidal forested wetlands, well-drained forests and pine flatwoods.
The plant was used by Native Americans to make a tea containing caffeine. The plant is the only known indigenous plant to North America that contained caffeine. The plant is also used heavily for landscaping in its native range. The fruit are an important food for many birds, including Florida duck, American black duck, mourning dove, ruffed grouse, bobwhite quail, wild turkey, northern flicker, sapsuckers, cedar waxwing, eastern bluebird, American robin, gray catbird, northern mockingbird, and white-throated sparrow. Mammals that eat the fruit include nine-banded armadillo, American black bear, gray fox, raccoon and skunks. The foliage and twigs are browsed by white-tailed deer.