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Prunus ilicifolia2 LytleCreek.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Unranked: Angiosperms
Unranked: Eudicots
Unranked: Rosids
Order: Rosales
Family: Rosaceae
Genus: Prunus
Species: P. ilicifolia
Binomial name
Prunus ilicifolia
(Nutt. ex Hook. & Arn.) Walp.

Prunus ilicifolia (Hollyleaf cherry or Evergreen cherry; Salinan Native American: Islay[1]) is a species in the genus Prunus, native to coastal California and northern Baja California.[2][3]


File:Prunus ilicifolia flowers 2005-03-24.jpg

It is an evergreen shrub or small tree up to 15 m tall, with dense, sclerophyllous foliage. The leaves are 1.6-12 cm long with a 4–25 mm petiole and spiny margins, somewhat resembling those of the holly, hence its English name; they are dark green when mature and generally shiny on top, and have a smell resembling almonds when crushed. The flowers are small (1-5 mm), white, produced on racemes in the spring. The fruit is a cherry 12–25 mm diameter, edible and sweet, but contains little flesh surrounding the smooth seed.[4][5][6]


There are two subspecies:[7][8][9]

Common NamesEdit

Hollyleaf Cherry, Evergreen Cherry


  • Dry soil
  • Sun


  • Can grow up to 9 meters in height
  • The pit of the fruit is toxic
  • Adapted to fire and will resprout from the root crown
  • Can be used as a hedge


  1. E.G. Gudde (1946). The Solution of the Islay Problem. California Folklore Quarterly 5 (3): 298-299 (Gudde concludes that the word "islay" originated in a Salinan word slay; Islay was the Spanish version of their word).
  2. Germplasm Resources Information Network: Prunus ilicifolia
  3. Fire Effects Information Service, USDA Forest Service: Prunus ilicifolia
  4. Jepson Flora: Prunus ilicifolia
  5. Munz, Philip A. 1973. A California flora and supplement. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
  6. Conrad, C. E. (1987). Common shrubs of chaparral and associated ecosystems of southern California. Gen. Tech. Rep. PSW-99. Berkeley, CA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Forest and Range Experiment Station.
  7. Jepson Flora: Prunus ilicifolia subsp. ilicifolia
  8. Jepson Flora: Prunus ilicifolia subsp. lyonii
  9. Schoenherr, A. A. (1993). A Natural History of California. University of California Press, Berkeley.