A shrub or tree, depending on cultivar and pruning.
Over 100 years.
Slow to establish, then rapid.
3-30' high and 2-20' wide. Often 15' x 10' if not pruned.
Small, short white petals, longer white stamens, in spiked clusters, fragrant.
Late winter to spring.
Years before fruiting:
The red to purple skin is leathery and bitter when not watered, with thin, sweet, edible flesh,
and one large seed composed of a toxic center embryo surrounded by a hard outer coating.
Months for fruit to ripen:
4. The fruit are fully ripe when dark red to purple.
Storage after harvest:
The fruit are normally consumed immediately.
Glossy, green, serrated edges with sharp points, having an almond-like aroma when crushed.
Reddish to grayish brown bark on young stems, with the odor of bitter almonds
(hydrogen cyanide) when scratched, grayish old bark, fairly smooth, no thorns.
The widespread root system provides erosion control. It can re-sprout from its root
crown after a fire.
Subspecies of Note:
'Prunus ilicifolia ssp. ilicifolia' Hollyleaf Cherry, slower growing
'Prunus ilicifolia ssp. lyonii' Catalina Cherry, faster growing
Some specimens sold in nurseries may be hybrids of the two subspecies.
It attracts bees, butterflies, birds, mammals, and is a caterpillar food plant
for the Pale Swallowtail, Western Tiger Swallowtail, Lorquin's Admiral, and Western Elfin
butterflies. It must be protected from browsing animals.
Toxic / Danger:
All parts of this plant are poisonous except its ripe fruit. The fruit can cause
digestive upset in large quantities. The center embryo in the seed is toxic.
Coastal California and Baja California.