ETHNOBOTANY NOTES: Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolium) Cathy Chambers
Toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolium is a wonderful, hardy, native California evergreen shrub. It can be a good screen in the yard, growing up to 6 feet fairly quickly. It tolerates soils from serpentine to clay, to sand. It is not as flammable as other chaparral shrubs. It is a great forage plant for bees, butterflies, and other insects, as well as birds. You will find it to be a foraging hub in your yard when it is flowering, and then the fruit will feed birds. The red berries were eaten by many native Californians as well. They also contain some cyanide compounds and must be roasted, wilted, or boiled before eaten. The hard wood was used to make many tools including bows. I remember my Mom, an east coast transplant, making wreaths for the door at Christmas. The berries are ripe in red clusters in November and December making it perfect for making holiday decorations.
Photo by Stan Shebs and shared under Creative Commons 3.0 license