Friday, November 25, 2011

Hollywood - what's in a name?

Toyon - Heteromeles arbutifolia - is also called the California holly.  It's an evergreen shrub, native to the chaparral and oak woodlands of the Santa Monica mountains, and grows all over my neighborhood

Its common name came because toyon's serrated evergreen leaves and brilliant red berries resembled Ilex aquafolium, the Christmas holly East-coast settlers of early California were familiar with. One story goes that an Ohio housewife named Daida Wilcox called the real estate development she and her husband sold "Hollywood," perhaps due to the profusion of toyon shrubs in the hills along the Caheunga Pass or perhaps just because she liked the name.

Toyon became so popular for Southern California Christmas decorations that laws prohibiting cutting the shrub were passed in the 1920s to protect it.

Here in Topanga, toyon grows everywhere, and volunteer seedlings spring up in my yard from berries dropped by birds or animals.

Toyon seedling in my front yard
The first year we moved to Los Angeles, before I got a job and I was able to spend days at home, I was in our Topanga back yard and watched as a flock of cedar waxwings inhabited a toyon bush and ate almost all the berries from it. Then they flew off together.

I never saw a cedar waxwing before that, and haven't seen one since. I'm actually not good at seeing birds - somehow my eyes or my brain aren't properly wired to distinguish them.

But I remember that flock of cedar waxwings, each with a yellow band at the end of its tail, and how the brilliant red berries disappeared so quickly as they fed.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Aunt Snow, do you know what these trees with the red berries are?

The robins were all getting drunk in the gutter on them when it was freezing cold in the middle of winter.

Jen on the Edge said...

We don't have this plant on the east coast, so I'm fascinated to see the plant for which Hollywood is named. Thank you for the photos and information.

Aunt Snow said...

Hi, Thunder,

Possibly some species of hawthorn:

Craetagus douglasii

I first thought also Cornus mas, but they ripen in the summer and I think hawthorn fruits stay on the branches later.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered why they called it Hollywood...

That is as good of a reason as any!