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Toyon bush in habitat
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
(unranked): Eurosids I
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae[1]
Subfamily: Maloideae or Spiraeoideae[2]
Genus: Heteromeles
Species: H. arbutifolia
Binomial name
Heteromeles arbutifolia
(Lindl.) M.Roem.[3]

Heteromeles salicifolia
Photinia arbutifolia Lindl.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia, (pronounced /ˌhɛtɨrɵˈmiːliːz ɑrˌbjuːtɨˈfoʊliə/;[4] more commonly pronounced /hɛtəˈrɒməliːz/ by California botanists) is a common perennial shrub native to California (down to Baja California).

Toyon is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub plant community, and is a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats.[5] It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California holly.

It is the sole species of Heteromeles, but is closely related to the Asian genus Photinia. It is still included by some botanists, as Toyon was originally described in that genus.



Toyon can be grown in domestic gardens in well drained soil, and is cultivated as an ornamental plant as far north as Southern England. It can survive temperatures as low as -12°C  . The bush is handsome all year round and the bright red berries in winter are showy (which birds often eat voraciously).

It is susceptible to fireblight[citation needed]. It survives on little water, making it suitable for xeriscape gardening, and is less of a fire hazard than some chaparral plants  .


Toyon typically grows from 2-5 m (rarely up 10 m in shaded conditions) and has a rounded to irregular top. Its leaves are evergreen, alternate, sharply toothed, have short petioles, and are 5-10 cm in length and 2-4 cm wide. In the early summer it produces small white flowers 6-10 mm diameter, in dense terminal corymbs.

Toyon berries

The five petals are rounded. The fruit is a small pome, 5-10 mm across, bright red and berry-like, produced in large quantities, maturing in the fall and persisting well into the winter

Wildlife value

They are visited by butterflies, and have a mild, hawthorn-like scent. The fruit are consumed by birds, including mockingbirds, American Robins, Cedar Waxwings.

Mammals including coyote and bear also eat and disperse the berries.

Traditional uses


As food

The berries provided food for local Native American tribes, such as Chumash, Tongva, 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.

Later settlers added sugar to make custard and wine.


Toyon berries are acidic and astringent, and contain a small amount of cyanogenic glycosides, which break down into hydrocyanic acid on digestion. This is removed by mild cooking.

Some berries, though mealy, astringent and acid when raw, were eaten fresh, or mashed into water to make a beverage.

Dye and wood

The leaves and berries have been used for dye, and the very hard, close-grained wood for various purposes.


In the 1920s, collecting toyon branches for Christmas became so popular in Los Angeles, California that the State of California passed a law forbidding collecting on public land.

Some believe that Hollywood, California derives its name from the numerous "California Holly" bushes which cover the Hollywood Hills, but the origin of Hollywood's name cannot be confirmed.

See also


Line notes

  1. ^ Germplasm Resources Information Network, 1910
  2. ^ Potter, D., et al. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43.
  3. ^ Jepson Flora Project, 1993
  4. ^ Sunset Western Garden Book, 1995:606–607
  5. ^ C.M. Hogan, 2008


Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies


Classification System: APG II (down to family level)

Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Regnum: Plantae
Cladus: Angiospermae
Cladus: Eudicots
Cladus: core eudicots
Cladus: Rosids
Cladus: Eurosids I
Ordo: Rosales
Familia: Rosaceae
Subfamilia: Maloideae
Genus: Heteromeles
Species: H. salicifolia


Heteromeles M.Roem.


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