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Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon)
Wasowski, Sally and Andy

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Lindl.) M. Roem.

Toyon, California Christmasberry, Christmasberry, California Holly, Hollywood

Rosaceae (Rose Family)


USDA Symbol: HEAR5

USDA Native Status: L48 (N), HI (I)

A freely branched, evergreen shrub or small tree which can grow 15-20 ft., or more, tall but usually is 6-8 ft. high and 4-5 ft. wide. Leathery, dark-green leaves provide a background for profuse white blooms and long-lasting displays of bright-red berries. The flowers and berries occur in large, terminal clusters. One of the most beautiful native shrubs or small trees, evergreen, with short trunk, many branches, and rounded crown.

The only species in its genus, Toyon is very showy in winter with evergreen leaves and abundant red fruit and is popular for Christmas decorations. A pioneer plant on eroded soil, it sprouts vigorously after fire or cutting. The common name Toyon is derived from an Ohlone word for the plant, and Hollywood, California, is thought to be named for it. It was once a major component of the chaparral that made up the original Hollywood landscape.


From the Image Gallery

3 photo(s) available in the Image Gallery

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub , Tree
Leaf Retention: Evergreen
Fruit Type: Pome
Size Notes: Up to about 30 feet tall, usually much shorter.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: White
Bloom Time: Apr , May , Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep


Native Distribution: CA & Baja CA
Native Habitat: Semi-dry, brushy slopes, foothills & canyons below 4000 ft.

Growing Conditions

Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Poor, dry, well-drained soil.
Conditions Comments: Adaptable, long-lived and drought-tolerant. Berries last from Nov. to Feb. Susceptible to fire blight and black mildew, especially near the coast. Tolerates serpentine soil. Exhibits allelopathic tendencies.


Use Ornamental: As a hedge.
Use Wildlife: Birds eat berries.
Use Food: Indigenous peoples cooked and ate the berries. They are toxic in large amounts.
Warning: Berries are toxic in large amounts.
Attracts: Birds

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees
Supports Conservation Biological Control

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.


Description: Propagation by seed is possible but germination is slow.
Seed Collection: Hand snips are needed to clup the fruits. Place fruits in a warm place and allow to ferment to aid in the extraction of seeds.
Commercially Avail: yes

Find Seed or Plants

Find seed sources for this species at the Native Seed Network.

View propagation protocol from Native Plants Network.

From the National Organizations Directory

According to the species list provided by Affiliate Organizations, this plant is on display at the following locations:

Santa Barbara Botanic Garden - Santa Barbara, CA
Native Seed Network - Corvallis, OR

Web Reference

Webref 30 - Calflora (2018) Calflora
Webref 38 - Flora of North America (2019) Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, MA.
Webref 23 - Southwest Environmental Information Network (2009) SEINet - Arizona Chapter

Additional resources

USDA: Find Heteromeles arbutifolia in USDA Plants
FNA: Find Heteromeles arbutifolia in the Flora of North America (if available)
Google: Search Google for Heteromeles arbutifolia


Record Modified: 2023-05-10
Research By: TWC Staff

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