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Prunus ilicifolia (Nutt. ex Hook. & Arn.) D. Dietr.
USDA Symbol: PRIL
USDA Native Status: Native to U.S.
Small evergreen tree with short trunk, dense crown of stout, spreading branches, spiny-toothed leaves, and red cherries; hairless throughout; often a shrub. Holly-leaf cherry is a dense, evergreen shrub or small tree to 10 ft. with dark-green, holly-like leaves; white flower spikes; and red or dark-purple to black, cherry fruits.
Hollyleaf Cherry has been planted as an ornamental and a hedge plant from the time of the Spanish settlement in California. Although sweetish and edible, the cherries are mostly stone and are consumed only by wildlife. Native Americans used to crack the dried fruit and prepare meal from the ground seeds, after leaching them of poisons. The common and scientific names both refer to the hollylike leaves, which are used as Christmas decorations.
Plant CharacteristicsDuration: Perennial Habit: Shrub Flower:
Fruit: Size Class:
Bloom InformationBloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Mar , Apr , May
CA Native Distribution:
Coast Ranges from Napa Co., s. to s. CA Native Habitat:
Dry slopes below 5000 ft. USDA Native Status: L48(N)
Growing ConditionsLight Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Dry, rocky soils.
Conditions Comments: Not Available
BenefitUse Wildlife: Birds and other wildlife eat the fruit.
Warning: The seeds of all Prunus species, found inside the fruits, contain poisonous substances and should never be eaten. Sensitivity to a toxin varies with a personís age, weight, physical condition, and individual susceptibility. Children are most vulnerable because of their curiosity and small size. Toxicity can vary in a plant according to season, the plantís different parts, and its stage of growth; and plants can absorb toxic substances, such as herbicides, pesticides, and pollutants from the water, air, and soil.
In addition to seed, Prunus species may be rooted from dormant hardwood, softwood, semi-hardwood, or root cuttings. Semi-hardwood and softwood cuttings taken in summer root easiest. Seed Collection:
when it is filled out, firm, and its ripe color. Clean seeds from pulp and briefly air dry. (Seeds to be sown immediately in fall do not need drying.) Storage viability is maintained at 31-41 degrees. Seed Treatment:
Fresh seeds require no treatment; stored seeds benefit from 1-3 months stratification. Commercially Avail:
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Record Modified: 2009-02-20
Research By: TWC Staff