Mate plant, or Yerba mate (Spanish: [ˈʝeɾβa ˈmate]; also spelled in English as maté, from the Spanish: yerba mate, Portuguese: erva-mate [ˈɛʁvɐ ˈmatʃi]), binomial name Ilex paraguariensis, is a species of holly (family Aquifoliaceae), well known as the source of the mate beverage. Though the plant is called yerba in Spanish ("herb" in English), it is a tree and not an herbaceous plant. It is native to subtropical South America in northeastern Argentina, Bolivia, southern Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay. It was first used and cultivated by the Guaraní people, and also in some Tupí communities in southern Brazil, prior to the European colonization. It was scientifically classified by the Swiss botanist Moses Bertoni, who settled in Paraguay in 1895.
The mate plant, Ilex paraguariensis, is a shrub when young and a tree when adult, growing up to 15 meters tall. The leaves are evergreen, 7–11 cm long and 3–5.5 cm wide, with a serrated margin. The flowers are small, greenish-white, with four petals. The fruit is a red drupe 4–6 mm in diameter. The leaves are often called yerba (Spanish) or erva (Portuguese), both of which mean "herb". They contain caffeine and related compounds and are harvested commercially.
Ilex (pron.: //), or holly, is a genus of 400 to 600 species of flowering plants in the family Aquifoliaceae, and the only living genus in that family. The species are evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, and climbers from tropics to temperate zones worldwide.