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Heteromeles arbutifolia

Chumash: qwe Español: Toyon

Plant Description

Category: shrub

Origin: California

Evergreen: yes

Height: 6 to 10 feet

Flower color: small white

Bloomtime: summer

Fruit: red, winter berries

Exposure: Sun or Shade

Common Names: Christmas Berry, California Holly

Habitat: Chaparral

Drought Tolerant: yes

Irrigation: low water needs

May be poisonous: yes

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Clusters of small, creamy-white flowers develop from mid-spring to early summer and are followed by red berries that attract birds in the fall and winter. Toyon berries provided food for local Native American tribes, such as the Chumash, Tonga, and Tataviam. The berries also can be made into a jelly. Native Americans also made a tea from the leaves as a stomach remedy. Most were dried and stored, then later cooked into porridge or pancakes. Its hard wood was fashioned into a variety of tools, used for fuel, and in rituals.

Toyon’s resemblance to holly and its abundance in the hills of Southern California was the origin of the name “Hollywood.” In the 1920s, collecting toyon branches for Christmas became so popular in Los Angeles that the State of California passed a law forbidding collecting on public land. The berries may be poisonous if eaten in large amounts. The name toyon was given by the Ohlone tribe. Toyon is the only California native plant that continues to be commonly known by a Native American name.

For Additional Information About this Plant

Key to Native Plant Symbols 

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