Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Holly in California?

Comarostaphylis diversifolia
Summer Holly: photo by Cliff Hutson

Plants of the genus Ilex (Holly) are not native to California, though some may have naturalized. However, several of our native plants do have "holly" as part of their common names. This is no doubt due to their having pointy leaves and red berries, but in total disregard to their taxonomy

Summer holly (Comarostaphylis diversifolia) is found in coastal chaparral from Santa Barbara County southerly into Baja California. There may be populations on the Channel Islands as well. Some sources cite that the geography makes for two subspecies: Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. diversifolia in coastal Southern California and Baja; and Comarostaphylis diversifolia ssp. planifolia on the Channel Islands and the Transverse Ranges north of Los Angeles. It is not very common, but not yet listed as rare.

A slow‐growing, evergreen shrub or tree to 20 ft. tall. Attractive features include shiny leaves, white flowers, red berries and shredded bark. While the flowers are urn-shaped similar to the more familiar manzanita, the red berries are warty or wrinkly rather than smooth. That feature also distinguishes it from toyon. Summer holly is a member of Ericaceae, commonly known as the heath or heather family, a family of flowering plants found most commonly in acid and infertile growing conditions.

Summer Holly can be used in the home landscape. It does well in dry part shade and does not tolerate direct water in the summer. Some care must be taken, but one pay off is that birds are attracted to the fruit.

No comments: