The typical commercial way of growing yerba mate in South America is clearing fertile lands to get full direct sunshine on the plants, which makes them grow faster. It's a mono-cultivation practice, which wears the soil out and reduces its productivity year after year.
A common way to cultivate under native trees in forested areas. The yerba mate seeds are planted in fertile soils are grown in the shade of the taller trees. Our yields are smaller with cultivation under native woods, up to 40% less product than the sun style cultivation, but it yields a much higher quality product, is more sustainable long term, and creates a habitat for bird and mammal species.
The factor that characterizes the size and shape of the yerba mate trees is the amount of sunlight received. In the dense subtropical forest, the fight for sunlight has developed the trees so that they have long slender trunks with a large leafy top. This applies to the native yerba mate trees, which develop a longer trunk, reaching 45 feet tall to reach the sunlight. The cultivated trees are pruned to spread, creating large bushes, which rarely develop large trunks. They are carefully harvested each season to maintain the bush-like shape which eases the labor in harvesting.
The leaves also present a difference in size and shape. The native leaves are usually smaller and darker in color. The cultivated leaves are larger, and occasionally, the serrated edge of the leaf becomes less evident.
Yerba Mate Tree