Friday, December 23, 2016

Season’s Greetings: Native Christmas Berries Light Up the Watershed

Small wonder they’re called “Christmas Berries,” for this time of year is when they're at their peak, and they're everywhere along the Sawyer Camp Trail.     

They’re the fruit of a hardy native shrub, the Toyon, which thrives in oak woodland surroundings. While they’re brightening the watershed surroundings for the rest of us, the vivid hue also alerts the neighborhood wild that the season of holiday feasting is here.

The Toyon is one of the few native plants that provide winter food for fruit-eating birds, such as robins, thrushes, jays, hummingbirds, and more. Those flurries of activity draw in the mammals (which are color blind but love the berries too).  And all return the hospitality by dispersing the berry seeds elsewhere in winter-wet soils, where they take root before the dry weather sets in. 

The dense shrubbery also provides safe habitat for bird nests, along with cover for other species, and black-tailed mule deer nibble the
young green sprouts.

The robust evergreen usually ranges in height from 6 to 12 feet, but in shady area  can grow to more than 30 feet in quest of sunlight.   

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