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Comarostaphylis diversifolia

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About Summer Holly (Comarostaphylis diversifolia) Comarostaphylis diversifolia is a rare shrub in the heath family known by the common name Summer Holly. It is slow growing in an upright form up to a height of 20 feet or more, with striking white flowers in the spring, an incredible summer display of holly-like red berries , and attractive gray bark. It is native to southern California and northern Baja California, where it grows in coastal chaparral habitat, usually on well drained slopes. Its bark is gray and shreddy and the tough, evergreen leaves are oval in shape and sometimes toothed. The flower cluster is a raceme of urn-shaped flowers very similar to those of the related shrubs, the manzanitas. The fruit is a bright red, juicy drupe with a bumpy skin. There are two subspecies. C. d. ssp. diversifolia - native to the coastal hills of southern California and Baja California, C. d. ssp. planifolia - native to the Channel Islands of California and the Transverse Ranges north of Los Angeles. Subspecies diversifolia tends to grow with Mission Manzanita, Scrub Oak and Toyon.

In nature, Summer Holly is most often found on shady dry slopes, near occasional creeks or runoffs. It grows slowly until it breaks through the lower canopy, and gets its leaves in the sun. In landscapes it does best in dry part shade, near irrigated spots or other slightly damp areas. It prefers heavier, richer soils that retain the little moisture it gets a little longer. Best to plant Summer Holly in the fall, so it can get established by summer. This plant is among the least tolerant to direct water in the summer. After the first year, direct water in the summer will usually kill it.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
10 - 20 ft (3 - 6.1 m)

Max. Width
3 - 15 ft (0.9 - 4.6 m)



Growth Rate


Hard, glossy, elliptical, 2-9 cm long, edges toothed and curled under

Flower Color
Cream, White, Red

Flowering Season
Spring, Summer

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Dry shady, often north facing slopes of dense southern maritime chaparral on the coastal side of the Peninsular Range

Part Shade

Elevation ?
24' - 3521'

Annual Precip. ?
11.0" - 34.4"

Summer Precip. ?
0.14" - 0.79"

Coldest Month ?
45.9° F - 56.5° F

Hottest Month ?
62.7° F - 77.4° F

Humidity ?
0.92 vpd - 22.18 vpd

Soil Description
This subspecies prefers eroded sandstone soils of marine deposits that are typical of coastal San Diego County.

Soil Texture
Sandy Loam

Soil PH
6.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 30° F

Wildlife Attracted
Birds are attracted to the fruit

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Moderately Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very Low, Low
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?

No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Slightly green or Fresh seeds need no treatment. Stored seeds 3 mos. stratification.

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hummingbird Gardens, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Sources include: Wikipedia. All text shown in the "About" section of these pages is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Plant observation data provided by the participants of the California Consortia of Herbaria, Sunset information provided by Jepson Flora Project. Propogation from seed information provided by the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden from "Seed Propagation of Native California Plants" by Dara E. Emery. Sources of plant photos include CalPhotos, Wikimedia Commons, and independent plant photographers who have agreed to share their images with Calscape. Other general sources of information include Calflora, CNPS Manual of Vegetation Online, Jepson Flora Project, Las Pilitas, Theodore Payne, Tree of Life, The Xerces Society, and information provided by CNPS volunteer editors, with special thanks to Don Rideout. Climate data used in creation of plant range maps is from PRISM Climate Group, Oregon State University, using 30 year (1981-2010) annual "normals" at an 800 meter spatial resolution.

Links:   Jepson eFlora Taxon Page  CalPhotos  Wikipedia  Calflora

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