Toyon can vary from a large shrub to a small tree. It is evergreen, multi-trunked and normally grows to a height of 6 to 8 feet, but can reach up to 20 feet. White flowers appear in late spring or summer, after which the berry fruit ripens to a bright red in winter. The plants grows on canyon slopes, in chaparral, oak woodland and forest communities up to 4000 feet.
Toyon is drought-tolerant but does best with some water, which enhances its fire-resistance. It grows in full sun and shade, and could be used as a hedge or small tree. The berries are eaten by birds, and the flower nectar is very attractive to butterflies and bees.
The scientific name Heteromeles arbutifolia is derived from the Greek words “heter” for different, “malus” for apple, and “arbutifolia” meaning leaves like the Spanish madrone, “Arbutus”.
The photos below are of a Toyon shrub on More Mesa, taken in April 2003.