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Hollyleaf Cherry
Prunus ilicifolia
About Hollyleaf Cherry (Prunus ilicifolia) Nurseries Show All Photos Hollyleaf cherry or Evergreen cherry is a species in the Rosaceae (Rose) family that is native to coastal California and northern Baja California. It is an evergreen shrub or small tree up to 15 meters tall, with dense, sclerophyllous foliage. The leaves are 1.6-12 centimeter long with a 4-25 millimeter petiole and spiny margins, somewhat resembling those of the holly, hence its English name; they are dark green when mature and generally shiny on top, and have a smell resembling almonds when crushed. The flowers are small (1-5 millimeters), white, produced on racemes in the spring. The fruit is a cherry 12-25 millimeter diameter, edible and sweet, but contains little flesh surrounding the smooth seed. Great for birds.

There are two recognized subspecies; ssp. lyonii (commonly known as Catalina Island Cherry) is native to the Channel Islands. It was formerly considered a separte species, and it is very similar in appearance and genetics to other P. ilicifolia. They hybridize readily, and many plants sold in nurseries may be unintentional hybrids.
Plant Description
Plant Type

Max. Height
30 - 49.2 ft (9.1 - 15 m)

Max. Width
20 ft (6.1 m)

Rounded, Upright Columnar

Growth Rate
Fast, Moderate


Flower Color
Cream, White

Flowering Season
Spring, Winter

Native Status

Natural Setting
Site Type
Slopes of the coast-facing mountains, extending inland to the desert transition and 1,600 m elevation

Sun, Part Shade

Elevation ?
0' - 6785'

Annual Precip. ?
4.6" - 52.9"

Summer Precip. ?
0.13" - 3.04"

Coldest Month ?
33.4° F - 57.3° F

Hottest Month ?
62.3° F - 84.0° F

Humidity ?
0.47 vpd - 34.82 vpd

Soil Description
Tolerant of a variety of soils but will grow largest and fastest in coarse, fast draining, relatively fertile garden soil

Soil PH
5.0 - 8.0

Fast, Medium

Cold Tolerance(° F)
Tolerates cold to 15° F

Companion Plants
Works with a wide variety of other trees and plants, including Manzanita (Arctostaphylos sp.), Coyotebrush (Baccharis pilularis), Barberry (Berberis sp.), Ceanothus sp., Redbud (Cercis occidentalis), Tree Poppy (Dendromecon rigida), Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia), Bushmallow (Malacothamnus fasciculatus), Pines (Pinus sp.), Oak (Quercus sp.), Flannelbush (Fremontodendron sp.), Currant (Ribes sp.), and many others.

Wildlife Attracted
Many birds and some small mammals are attracted to the fruits

Landscaping Information
Ease of Care
Very Easy

Water Requirement ?
Very 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: Fresh seeds need no treatment; stored seeds 1-3 mos. stratification may improve germination.

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

Nursery Availability
Commonly Available

Other Names
Common Names
Catalina Island Cherry, Holly-leaf Cherry, Holly-leaved Cherry

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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