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Products > Heteromeles arbutifolia
 
Heteromeles arbutifolia - Toyon
   

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Habit and Cultural Information
Category: Shrub
Family: Rosaceae (Roses)
Origin: California (U.S.A.)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: White
Bloomtime: Summer
Synonyms: [Photinia arbutifolia]
Height: 6-10 feet
Width: 6-8 feet
Exposure: Sun or Shade
Summer Dry: Yes
Irrigation (H2O Info): Low Water Needs
Winter Hardiness: 0-10 F
May be Poisonous  (More Info): Yes
Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon) - A California native evergreen shrub that typically grows into a dense plant to 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide but older plants can be taller and wider and even trained into small trees. It has gray bark, either smooth or fissured with age that hold leathery 2-4 inch long oblong leaves that are serrated along the margins and many small white mildly fragrant flowers in terminal clusters in late spring to early summer that produce bright red pea sized berries in the winter. Plant in full sun to partial shade. It is drought tolerant after the first few years, but tolerates some water if drainage is good. Hardy to just below 0 F and useful down into USDA Zone 8. Toyon is a great specimen or large hedge plant used alone or mixed with Coffeeberry and Ceanothus and can also be kept many years as a container plant. Though it can often take a few years to establish, this plant is eventually deep-rooted so useful for erosion control or slope stabilization and has been reported to be somewhat fire resistant, particularly if irrigated occasionally during spring and summer, which unlike many native plants, Toyon can generally tolerate but allow soils to completely dry to several inches (3-4") deep between watering. Bees and butterflies are attracted to the flowers and birds somewhat to the fruit. The berries are edible to humans but acidic and not that pleasant - they also contain cyanide compounds that are harmful if too many are eaten raw. Somewhat resistant to herbivore predation but deer will still eat the new foliage in dry years so protect for a few years to get establishment. This plant is also not without its cultural challenges as it harbors many damaging insects such as thrips, scale, aphids, mealybug and white fly but these can usually be alleviated (or tolerated) using safe methods. The biggest concern is from root pathogens promoted by overwatering and from Fire Blight, a bacterial disease common to the rose family which occasionally attacks Toyon and must be pruned out well below infected parts - see the UC IPM guidelines on Managing Fire Blight for more information on this disease. Toyon is native from northern Baja California north up into Oregon where it grows in the Chaparral, Oak Woodland and Coastal Scrub plant communities from sea level to about 4000 feet in elevation. The name for the genus is from the Greek words 'heter' meaning "different" and 'malus' meaning "apple", likely in reference to resemblance of the Toyon fruit to that of an apple. The specific epithet refers to this plant having leaves like that of the European Strawberry Tree, Arbutus unedo. It is most closely related to the Asian genus Photinia and in fact, was once called Photinia arbutifolia. The common name "Toyon" is a Spanish alteration of 'totcon' the word used for the plant by the Ohlone Indians of the central and northern California coast. Other common names for include California Holly and Christmas Berry. The rumor is that Hollywood got its name from the presence of this plant the growing plentifully in the area - the town was actually named by H.J. Whitley who named it for the nearby Holly Canyon, which likely was named for this plant. This plant was reportedly first introduced into the horticultural trade by the English born and trained horticulturist Theodore Payne who arrived and embraced the California Flora in 1893 at the age of twenty-one and spent the rest of his life promoting our native plants. Payne's longtime friend and business partner Ralph Cornell, the pioneering early California Landscape Architect who designed the landscapes of the Pomona Colleges, Rancho Los Cerritos and the UCLA campus, wrote gloriously about Toyon in his book Conspicuous California Plants written in 1938. Cornell noted "Any plant that encourages bird life, supplies the bees with an unexcelled source of honey, gives food to man, furnishes tannin from its bark, protects arid slopes from erosion, paints the landscape with vivid colors and carries joy into the home at Christmas time, when no other berries are available to most Californians, surely deserves the protection of man, whom it serves so well." In 2012 Toyon was named the official native plant of the City of Los Angeles. We also grow the golden berried form 'Davis Gold' This description is based on research and observations of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in our nursery garden and in other gardens that we visit. We also incorporate comments received and appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have any additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Heteromeles arbutifolia.
 
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