There’s little question that these slightly shriveled berries were produced by the plant known as yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), a member of the holly family that’s native throughout the southeast, from Texas to coastal North Carolina.
How they came to be clustered in this hollow — part of a large, decaying tree stump — is hard to say, since there wasn’t an over-hanging yaupon branch to drop its berries into the stump. Even if there were, it seems unlikely that so many would have collected there.
It is food-gathering time, with squirrels burying pecans or collecting and drying fungi, while woodpeckers and bluejays energetically seek out and store acorns. Still, this seems a poor spot for caching food. Perhaps a younger and less experienced critter gave it a try, but decided to find a drier, more secure spot.
On the other hand, Christmas is drawing nigh. Perhaps this is only an optimistic squirrel’s version of cookies and milk. With such tempting berries in the stump, surely Santa Squirrel will pay a visit!