Watch out for Christmas Berries on San Diego Hiking Trails


Have you seen bushes of these bright red berries in recent weeks while enjoying your favorite San Diego hiking trails?

I’ve seen quite a few, especially in the Los Penasquitos Canyon. With a little research, I’ve found they are appropriately called Christmas Berries. They are also called Toyons, which are evergreen shrubs with leathery leaves, small white flowers that bloom in the summer and the red berries seen in the adjacent photo that arrive by Christmas.

Christmas berries are native to the area and can be found throughout San Diego County from our coastal areas to our mountains. They’ve even been seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert. Christmas berries are found primarily only within the borders of California and are a popular source of food for birds.

Don’t be tempted to taste the berries as they are rated as having ‘Major’ toxicity. However, according the the UC Davis website, native Indians did eat them after boiling away their bitter taste. The native Indians also used the Toyon branches to create their arrows, harpoons, and fishing spears according to the Western National Parks Association website.

Enjoy the bright colors offered by the Christmas berries during our winter months while hiking in San Diego.

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