So what does the endangered Houston toad have to do with tasty, caffeinated yaupon, and why do we have the little guy on our logo?
The short answer:
We harvest our yaupon in areas where removing yaupon helps the toad!
The long answer: In the past, the Houston toad lived all over the central coastal area of Texas. Due to development and drought, they are now critically endangered. Most of the remaining Houston toads (only about 2,000-5,000 total!) live in Bastrop county, Texas, in the Lost Pines Forest area. Over time, largely because of human impact on the land, the forest has gotten out of balance and overgrown yaupon has formed massive, dense thickets, crowding out habitat for the toad and other critters, and creating a fire hazard for people living in the area. The yaupon thickets crowd out almost all other plants, including baby pine trees and the native grasses the toad calls home.
The Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan
To help restore the forest and habitat for the toad, the Lost Pines Habitat Conservation Plan was created. The plan is designed to encourage property owners to create more favorable habitat for the toad and in return they get a wildlife property tax break. A large part of the habitat restoration program is managing the balance between yaupon and other native grasses and forbs.
Yaupon is a very "energetic" plant and will easily form huge thickets that crowd out other native plants. Keeping yaupon in check lets the other natives thrive until the pine forest canopy is reestablished, and the forest canopy keeps the yaupon in check. It's these other native plants and forbs, and the insects they attract, that the Houston toad really needs. So, in helping restore habitat for the toad, many other native plants and critters get help as well. In addition, this also helps wildfire mitigation as cutting the yaupon back over and over mimics natural fire cycles.