Guayusa is not related to the camellia sinensis (tea) plant. It is one of three caffeinated holly trees that exist in the world, and is a distant cousin of Yerba Maté. Guayusa leaves have a smooth ribbed edge, similar to the distinctive shape of a holly tree leaf (but without the spikes). Very large in size, guayusa leaves can reach over 15 cm in length.
Guayusa trees can reach a height of over 50 feet and live to be over 100 years old. They tend to produce lots of small trunks on one bush, and therefore are full of leaves (perfect for harvesting).
While guayusa is endemic to the Upper Amazon regions of Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia, it is estimated that over 98% of the guayusa trees in the world are located in Ecuador.
Interestingly, guayusa does not produce fertile seeds. This unique botanical characteristic demonstrates the intricate role that guayusa has played with human development in the Amazon. Botanists believe that after being propagated asexually for hundreds of years, guayusa lost it’s ability to produce fertile seeds. Just as we depend on it for a health source of energy, it depends on us to keep growing.
Did you know that caffeine serves as a natural insect repellent? Botanists believe that plants first produced caffeine in order to give insects an unpleasant jolt to their nervous system when they eat a plant’s leaves. We strange creatures find it pleasant.
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