90123Botanists took a while to contrive an identity for toyon, which is also known as Christmas berry and California holly. It was classified as a species of Crataegus, two different specie of Photinia and two other specie of Heteromeles before it was finally identified as Heteromeles arbutifolia. Meanwhile, the town named after it changed its name only once from Hollywoodland to Hollywood.

Toyon is native to the coastal chaparral regions of California and Baja California, as well as British Columbia, so it can be quite happy with minimal watering or none at all in home gardens. Too much water is likely to rot roots. Fire blight unfortunately seems to be more of a problem in refined landscapes than it is in the wild. Toyon can be pruned up as a small tree, but must not be shorn.

Where it competes with other trees, toyon can get more than twenty feet tall. Those that are well exposed are typically less than twelve feet tall, with nicely well rounded canopies. The evergreen leaves are somewhat serrate and narrow. Fluffy trusses of small white flowers bloom early in summer. Big hanging clusters of bright berries ripen in autumn and linger until birds eat them in winter.

10 thoughts on “Toyon

  1. Wow, that’s a gorgeous little tree/shrub. Naturally I can’t grow them out here in the frozen northeast, but I don’t even recall them from my trips to California. Maybe I was too overwhelmed by all the other beauties I couldn’t grow.


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now that you mention it, I do not remember seeing the in the Santa Monica Mountains unless I was looking right at them. The coastal scrub is so mixed that they are not very prominent without their berries. There were a few at my home that were quite pretty with their berries, but nondescript without. They are not very common in landscaping either. Those in the picture are in a landscape composed of natives.


    1. Actually, it is rather boring. It is like a see-through photinia without the nice bronzed new foliage. It does not like to be shorn. Yet, it is appealing for its resilience in areas that are not landscaped.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. As much as I like the natives, most share certain qualities. They do not want to be watered to much. They do not want to be pruned. Except for those that are among the oldest plants on Earth, and the oaks that last a few centuries, most others do not last long. I happen to really like the bright red toyon berries in the wild, but probably would not plant them in a refined garden.


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