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Kingdom  Plantae
Subfamily  Amygdaloideae
Subtribe  Malinae
Rank  Species
Order  Rosales
Family  Rosaceae
Tribe  Maleae
Scientific name  Heteromeles arbutifolia
Higher classification  Heteromeles
Heteromeles wwwlaspilitascomimagesgrid24189759imagespl
Genus  Heteromeles M.Roem. nom. cons. 1847
Similar  Frangula californica, Baccharis pilularis, Adenostoma fasciculatum, Rhus integrifolia, Quercus agrifolia

Toyon heteromeles arbutifolia san marcos california

Heteromeles arbutifolia (/ˌhɛtrˈmlz ɑːrˌbjuːtˈfliə/; more commonly /ˌhɛtəˈrɒməlz/ by Californian botanists), commonly known as toyon, is a common perennial shrub native to extreme southwest Oregon, California, Baja California, and British Columbia. It is the sole species in the genus Heteromeles.


Heteromeles Heteromeles Wikipedia

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. It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California holly. Accordingly, "the abundance of this species in the hills above Los Angeles... gave rise to the name Hollywood."

Heteromeles Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon

2015 2 07 physiological responses of heteromeles arbutifolia


Heteromeles Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon

Toyon typically grows from 2–5 m (rarely up to 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.

Heteromeles Heteromeles arbutifolia Toyon California Gardens

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.


Heteromeles Heteromeles arbutifolia at San Marcos Growers

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. In winter, the bright red pomes (which birds often eat voraciously) are showy.

Heteromeles Heteromeles arbutifolia The Watershed Nursery

Like many other genera in the Rosaceae tribe Maleae, toyon includes some cultivars that are susceptible to fireblight. It survives on little water, making it suitable for xeriscape gardening, and is less of a fire hazard than some chaparral plants.

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 and hermit thrushes. Mammals including coyotes and bears also eat and disperse the pomes.

Traditional use

The pomes provided food for local Native American tribes, such as the Chumash, Tongva, and Tataviam. The pomes 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 pomes 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 pomes, though mealy, astringent and acid when raw, were eaten fresh, or mashed into water to make a beverage.


In the 1920s, collecting toyon branches for Christmas became so popular in Los Angeles that the State of California passed a law forbidding collecting on public land or on any land not owned by the person picking any plant without the landowner's written permission (CA Penal Code § 384a).

Toyon was adopted as the official native plant of the city of Los Angeles by the LA City Council on April 17, 2012.


The genera Photinia, Aronia, Pourthiaea, and Stranvaesia have historically been variously combined by different taxonomists. The genus Heteromeles as originally published by Max Joseph Roemer was monospecific, including Photinia arbutifolia Lindl. (1820), as H. arbutifolia (Lindl.) M. Roem, but the name was illegitimate (superfluous) because it included the type of the genus Photinia. This has since been corrected by conservation, and the name is therefore often written as Heteromeles M. Roem. nom. cons. (1847).


Heteromeles Wikipedia