Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
General: Rose family (Rosaceae). Hollyleaf cherry is a small, evergreen shrub or tree that is native to California. The plants can reach 6 to 9 meters and are usually as broad as they are tall. The bark is dark gray and smooth. The twigs are grayish to reddish brown. The many branches bear glossy dark green leaves that are lighter green beneath. The leaves resemble holly leaves with serrated edges and tiny spines. Leaves are 16 to 120 mm in length and alternately arranged. Feathery blooms of flowers appear from March to May. The white flowers grow on a raceme of several flowers with petals from 1 to 3 mm long. The stems of the individual flowers vary from 1 to 5 mm long. The red to bluish-black cherry fruits ripen in September or October and are 12 to 25mm in diameter. A thin layer of sweet, fleshy pulp overlays a large smooth pit.
Distribution: Hollyleaf cherry is native to western California. It occurs in the mountains of the Coast Range from Napa County in the north to Baja in the south. The subspecies lyonni, is a tree to 15m whose native range is restricted to the Channel Islands off the coast of southern California.
For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.
Habitat: These trees and shrubs grow in the moister areas of dry chaparral shrublands and foothill woodlands at elevations below 1600 meters. They are often found in canyons and on north-facing slopes.