Herb: Christmas Berry


Latin name: Photinia arbutifolia


Synonyms: Crataegus arbutifolia, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Photinia salicifolia


Family: Rosaceae (Rose Family)



Medicinal use of Christmas Berry:

An infusion of the bark and leaves has been used as a wash for infected wounds. A decoction of the leaves has been used in the treatment of stomach aches, plus various other aches and pains.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Evergreen
Tree

Height:
6 m
(20 feet)

Flovering:
August


Scent:
Scented
Tree

Habitat of the herb:

Semi-dry brushy slopes and in canyons below 1200 metres. It is usually found in the neighbourhood of streams or on dry hills, especially on north-facing slopes. Often on steep sea-cliffs.

Edible parts of Christmas Berry:

Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruits are 5 - 6mm across, they taste like common haws (Crataegus monogyna). Mealy, astringent and acid. Best if a little sugar is added to sweeten them. They can also be dried, ground into a powder and made into a mush or fermented into a cider. A slight cooking removes any bitter taste. Native North American Indians would often place them in a basket close to the fire and keep turning them until they had wilted before eating them.

Other uses of the herb:

A golden brown dye is obtained from the leaves and stems. Dark olive-green and black dyes are obtained from the leaves and berries. The fruit-covered branches are gathered in large quantities in California and used as Christmas decorations in much the same way as holly is used in Britain. Wood - very heavy, hard, close-grained.

Propagation of Christmas Berry:

Seed - best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe in the autumn. Stored seed will probably require a period of cold stratification and should be sown as early in the year as possible. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Basal cuttings in a frame. Harvest the shoots when they are about 10 - 15cm long with plenty of underground stem. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Semi-dry brushy slopes and in canyons below 1200 metres. It is usually found in the neighbourhood of streams or on dry hills, especially on north-facing slopes. Often on steep sea-cliffs.

Known hazards of Photinia arbutifolia:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.