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Rhamnus californica

Rhamnus californica

R. c. ssp. californica
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Rosales
Family: Rhamnaceae
Genus: Rhamnus
Subgenus: Frangula
Species: R. californica
Binomial name
Rhamnus californica

The California Buckthorn (Rhamnus californica, syn. Frangula californica (Eschsch.) A.Gray) is also called Coffeeberry because its berries contain seeds which look like coffee beans. It is a fairly common plant native to California and southwestern Oregon.

It is an evergreen shrub growing to 2-5 m tall, with dark red branches. The leaves are 2-8 cm long, dark, dull green, and curl under at the edges. The flowers are small and greenish-white with five petals; they are produced in clusters of 5-60 together. The fruit is a berry 10-15 mm diameter, which turns red, then purple and finally black over the summer.

Coffeeberry plants that grow in windy or exposed areas usually do not exceed a meter or two in height or width, but individuals growing in inland areas or sheltered canyons can spread to 8 m wide. The plant is found in shrubby coastal chaparral areas, foothill slopes, and oak woodlands in most regions in California west of the Sierra Nevada, and grows at altitudes of up to 2300 m.

There are two subspecies:

  • Rhamnus californica subsp. californica - widespread in western California. Fruit with two seeds; twigs red; leaves with conspicuous veins.
  • Rhamnus californica subsp. occidentalis - northern California and southwest Oregon, on serpentine soils. Fruit with three seeds; twigs brown; leaves with inconspicuous veins.

Coffeeberry is susceptible to the mold which causes sudden oak death.


Some local native tribes used coffeeberry as an herbal laxative, but only in small quantities since the laxative effects of the plant, as with several other Rhamnus species are quite powerful and even dangerous.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Rhamnus_californica". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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