Gardening Wiki
Toyon bush in habitat
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae[1]
Subfamily: Maloideae or Spiraeoideae[2]
Genus: Heteromeles
Species: H. arbutifolia
Binomial name
Heteromeles arbutifolia
(Lindl.) M.Roem.[3]

Heteromeles salicifolia
Photinia arbutifolia Lindl.

Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, (pronounced /ˌhɛtɨrɵˈmiːliːz ɑrˌbjuːtɨˈfoʊliə/;[4] more commonly pronounced /hɛtəˈrɒməliːz/ by California botanists) is a common perennial shrub native to California down to Baja California.

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.[5] It is also known by the common names Christmas berry and California holly.

It is the sole species of Heteromeles, but is closely related to the Asian genus Photinia. It is still included by some botanists, as Toyon was originally described in that genus.


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

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

Common Names[]

Toyon, Christmas Berry, California Holly


  • Dry soil


  • useful for erosion control on dry, steep hillsides
  • The berries are sweet and spicy and have been used historically for a variety of purposes.
  • Germplasm Resources Information Network, 1910
  • Potter, D., et al. (2007). Phylogeny and classification of Rosaceae. Plant Systematics and Evolution. 266(1–2): 5–43.
  • Jepson Flora Project, 1993
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