Advanced Search Map Locator
View Settings
Nurseries Carrying this Plant Add Current Plant To List Edit Current Plant
Show all Photos

Butterflies My Plant Lists Nurseries Planting Guide Contact Calscape About Calscape
Tap map to see plants native to location
Order by Popularity Order by Common Name Order by Scientific Name Order by # of Butterflies Hosted
Show nursery cultivars Hide nursery cultivars
Show plants not in nurseries Hide plants not in nurseries
Grid view Text view
Heteromeles arbutifolia
About Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) Nurseries Show All Photos Toyon is a beautiful perennial shrub native throughout the western part of California and the Sierra foothills. It is a prominent component of the coastal sage scrub plant community, and is a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California Holly from the bright red berries it produces. The city of Hollywood was name for this plant.

It often grows to about 8 feet tall, but there are some spectacular specimens in the Los Padres National Forest that are over 30 feet tall. Its leaves are evergreen, alternate, sharply toothed, and are 5 cm in length and 2 cm wide. In the early summer it produces small white flowers 6mm diameter in dense bunches, The five petals are rounded. The fruit is small, bright red and berry-like, produced in large quantities, maturing in the fall and persisting well into the winter. The flowers are visited by butterflies and other insects, and have a mild, hawthorn-like scent. The berries are consumed by birds, including mockingbirds, American robins, and cedar waxwings. Mammals including coyotes and bears also eat and disperse the berries.

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. Raw berries are mealy, astringent and acid, though were eaten fresh, or mashed into water to make a beverage by Native Americans.

Toyon are beautiful plants and easy to grow. If properly situated, they can grow very quickly, up to 10 feet in three years. They like sun or part shade, though they tend to do better in part shade in the southern, drier part of their geographic range. They can handle a wide variety of soils, including clay, sand and serpentine, but need more moisture than most chaparral shrubs. They do well near seasonal creeks, seeps, bottom of slopes, or near irrigated areas. These plants tolerate a fair amount of summer water, up to 1x per week if the drainage is good. Toyon can be planted near houses since they are fire retardant when given enough moisture. They are an excellent hedge plant.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
6 - 30 ft (1.8 - 9.1 m)

Max. Width
10 - 15 ft (3 - 4.6 m)



Growth Rate


Blade 5-10 cm long, with a leathery texture. Margins are finely toothed.

Flower Color

Flowering Season

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Toyon is a common plant in chaparral and is found along creeksides, bottoms of slopes, north facing slopes, and canyons

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
0' - 7419'

Annual Precip. ?
7.0" - 128.0"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 3.90"

Coldest Month ?
33.5° F - 57.4° F

Hottest Month ?
53.5° F - 80.4° F

Humidity ?
0.22 vpd - 27.39 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of a variety of soils

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Soil Toxicity Tolerance
Tolerates Serpentine Soil

Fast, Medium, Slow

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to -5° F

Sunset Zones ?
5, 7*, 8, 9, 14*, 15*, 16*, 17*, 18*, 19*, 20*, 21*, 22*, 23*, 24*

Wildlife Attracted
Bees are attracted to the flowers. Birds love the berries

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Extremely Low
Very Low
Moderate - High

Moderately Popular

Max. Summer Water ?
No Summer Water
Keep moist

Organic with Rocks

Pest Control
Susceptible to fireblight

Propagation ?
For propagating by seed: Fresh seeds need no treatment; stored seed 3 mos. stratification.

Common uses
Bank Stabilization, Hedges, Deer Resistant, Bird Gardens, Butterfly Gardens

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
California Holly, Christmas Berry

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

Sign in to your Calscape Account X

Once signed in, you'll be able to access any previously saved plant lists or create new ones.

Email Address

Sign In