California Coffeeberry

by Vivian Mazur, Inverness Garden Club

California Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica or Frangula californica)

On a recent hike on Inverness Ridge in Marin County, we came across a particularly large and handsome coffeeberry adorned with fruits in all stages of ripeness—from green to red to black. I was reminded of what an attractive plant the California coffeeberry is and how often it is overlooked as a garden subject.

It is a member of the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae) as is its cousin, ceanothus. Its botanical name used to be Rhamnus californica but was recently changed to Frangula californica. However, nurseries are more likely to know it by its former name. The common name, ‘coffeeberry’, comes from the appearance of the ripe berries and not their edibility, though several species of birds and small mammals relish the fruit. Continue reading