California buckthorn Rhamnaceae Frangula
californica (Eschsch.) A. Gray symbol: FRCA12
Leaf: Alternate, simple, evergreen, elliptical, 1 1/2 to 3 inches long, finely serrated or entire margins may also be revolute, on dry sites leaves are thicker and smaller, shiny dark green above, paler with prominently raised, pinnate veins below.
Flower: Small with 5 yellow-green triangular petals, occurs in relatively long stemmed clusters from the leaf axils, appear in late spring.
Fruit: Berry-like round drupe, 1/2 inch in diameter, one to several in a cluster, green, turning red then black at maturity, slightly juicy, ripens in the fall.
Twig: Dark reddish gray, somewhat fuzzy but becoming smooth with age, naked (without scales) brown buds.
Bark: Smooth, reddish gray with numerous lenticels, later splitting into very shallow fissures (still very smooth) and becoming lighter in color.
Form: Generally a multi-stemmed shrub reaching 6 to 8 feet in height; however, several subspecies are recognized and some approach the size of small trees (20 feet) on better sites.
Looks like: Cascara buckthorn - common buckthorn
Additional Range Information: Frangula californica is native to North America. Range may be expanded by planting. See states reporting California buckthorn.
More Information: Fall Color
External Links: USDAFS Additional Silvics - USDA Plants Database
All material © 2017 Virginia Tech Dept. of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation; Photos and text by: John Seiler, Edward Jensen, Alex Niemiera, and John Peterson