subsp. californica. The tiny 1/8 in. bisexual flowers have 5 clawed petals which are shorter than the 5 fleshy keeled sepals; 5 stamens.  Ovary may be inferior with 2-3 chambers.  O'Neill Regional Park, Trabuco Canyon, CA. 4-11-10. © Joan Avise

California Coffee Berry

Rhamnus (=Frangula) californica

A 3 to 12 ft.-tall shrub common on shaded slopes and in canyons, chaparral and understory of oak woodland in the Santa Ana Mountains and foothills. Three subspecies are recognized (Roberts): californica (Desert Coffee Berry, with smooth red twigs and generally evergreen leaves), cuspidata (Chaparral Coffeeberry, with red twigs with two hair lengths, leaf margins more dentate, underside of leaf white woolly with conspicuous long hairs, leaves can be semi-deciduous) and tomentella (Chaparral Coffee Berry; scarce).  The subspecies intergrade in intermediate habitats.

Native to western North America

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subsp. californica. The evergreen leaves are 1-3 in. long, often with inward turned margins; dark green above, bright green or yellow beneath (ssp. californica) or white woolly with conspicuous long hairs underneath (ssp. cuspidata).  O'Neill Regional Park, Trabuco Canyon, CA. 4-11-10. © Joan Avise

subsp. californica. Fruits may be green, black or red berries shaped like commercial coffee beans. Cultivated at Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, Orange Co., CA. 7-22-07. © Joan Avise

subsp. californica. Cultivated at Riley Wilderness Park, Coto de Caza, CA., 5-26-07. © Joan Avise

subsp. californica. Holy Jim Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Orange County, CA. 12-29-11. © Peter J. Bryant

subsp. californica. Holy Jim Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Orange County, CA. 12-29-11. © Peter J. Bryant

subsp. californica. Holy Jim Canyon, Trabuco Canyon, Orange County, CA. 12-29-11. © Peter J. Bryant

ssp. cuspidata, Horsethief Trail & Trabuco Cyn., 4-23-15. © Ron Vanderhoff.
 

ssp. cuspidata, Upper Trabuco Cyn and Trail, 4-26-15. © Ron Vanderhoff.

ssp. cuspidata, Upper Trabuco Cyn and Trail, 4-26-15. © Ron Vanderhoff.

ssp. tomentella, Harding Canyon, CNPS, 4-24-16. © Ron Vanderhoff.

ssp. tomentella, Harding Canyon, CNPS, 4-24-16. © Ron Vanderhoff.