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Heteromeles arbutifolia


Christmas berry

Plant family

Rose (Rosaceae)

Plant group

Broadleaf Evergreens

An evergreen shrub to small tree that grows up to 5 m tall (16 ft) and 1-3 m wide (3-10 ft). It has grayish bark and minutely-hairy twigs, with stiff long leaves that have sharp teeth on the margin. It is distinguished by its bright red holly-like berries which cover the upper branches.
142 reports

Identification hints

During most of the year, this woody shrub is distinctive by its large displays of small (0.6 cm, .0.25 in) red apple-like fruits. It has alternately arranged long, leathery, elliptical leaves with sharp teeth evenly spaced along leaf margins.

Did you know?

Indigenous peoples throughout parts of Canada picked and ate the savory fruit of this plant. Midwestern prairie and Great Lakes tribes, such as the Omaha, Hidatsa, Mandan, Dakota, Pawnee, Blackfoot, Cheyenne, and the Winnebago ate these strawberries raw, cooked or dried. The Winnebago and Blackfoot made a tea with an infusion of the young leaves of this plant. The Ojibwe used root of Fragaria virginiana to treat "cholera infantum" and stomach aches. Also, plant attracts wildlife and butterflies.
California , Hawaii
Toyon is widespread in central to southern California south to Baja California and can be found in chaparral, oak woodland, and mixed-evergreen forest communities at elevations less than 4200 ft (1300 m).
The dark-green, leathery, evergreen leaves are elliptic to oblong in shape and 1.6 to 4.3 in (4 to 11 cm) long with sharp-toothed margins (leaf edges). Leaves are shiny on top but dull and pale below, and are connected to the stems by a short petiole (leaf stalk).
The white flowers are 0.78 to 1.57 in (2 to 4 cm) in diameter and have 5 distinct petals, with 10 male stamens (in 5 pairs of two’s) surrounding the central female pistil which contains 2 to 3 styles. Flowers are loosely clustered at stem tips.
Toyon fruits are similar to small apples – each bright red berry (technically a “pome” like an apple) is 0.2 to 0.4 in (5 to 10 mm) in diameter and has a mealy pulp that contains 3 to 6 brown seeds in the middle. The conspicuous fruits are loosely clustered at stem tips and can persist throughout the autumn and winter in some locations (making it a common plant for winter holiday arrangements).
Bloom Time
Toyon blooms in mid to late summer through autumn and ripens its long-lasting red fruits throughout the autumn and winter.

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