Rosaceae (Rose family) Prunus

Prunus ilicifolia holly-leaf cherry

California Coast Ranges, Channel Islands, Mexico
Prunus ilicifolia fruit, leaves. From Forest Trees of the Pacific Slope, George B. Sudworth, USDA, 1907

Native to the immediate neighborhood of the campus, including Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve (where it is widespread and locally abundant), this evergreen shrub or small tree can be seen growing as a thicket at the northeast corner of the Cantor Center and on Serra Street between Campus Drive East and Pampas Lane. Two of the finest examples are under a coast live oak canopy 30 yards south of the California Native Garden (Lomita Drive and Roth Way, east of the Keck Building).

The shiny dark green leaves are 1 to 2 inches long and have prickly edges. They are paler underneath. The small white flowers come in spikes a few inches long and later develop into dark red sweet juicy cherries. The roots and leaves are used in cooking in Mexico. The pits furnish an edible mush that must be leached in running water for several hours to remove traces of cyanide. This widely distributed plant was named in 1843 by Thomas Nuttall of Philadelphia, who collected on the Mexican coast. See P. ilicifolia subsp. lyonii, previously considered a separate species.

Illustrations: Jasper Ridge photo archive.

About this Entry: The main text of this entry is from the book Trees of Stanford and Environs, by Ronald Bracewell, published 2005. John Rawlings noted this species is widespread & locally abundant (at Jasper Ridge). Mention of P. lyonii edited.