Botanical Name : Rhamnus californica/Frangula californica
Species: R. californica—F. californica
Habitat : Rhamnus californica is native to California, the Southwestern United States, and Baja California state in Mexico. It is an introduced species in Hawaii. The plant occurs in Oak woodland and chaparral habitats, numerous others in its range. Individual plants can live an estimated 100 to 200 years.
Rhamnus californica is a shrub 3–12 feet (0.91–3.66 m) tall. It is variable in form across subspecies. In favorable conditions the plant can develop into a small tree over 12 feet (3.7 m) tall.More commonly it is a shrub between 3–6 feet (0.91–1.83 m) tall.
The branches may have a reddish tinge and the new twigs are often red in color. The alternately arranged evergreen leaves are dark green above and paler on the undersides. The leaves have thin blades in moist habitat, and smaller, thicker blades in dry areas.
The 1/8″ greenish flowers occur in clusters in the leaf axils, have 5 sepals, and 5 shorter petals.
It blooms in May and June.
The fruit is a juicy drupe which may be green, red, or black. It is just under a centimeter long and contains two seeds that resemble coffee beans.
The seeds inside the berries make an excellent, caffeine-free coffee substitute, superior to chicory and with overtones of mocha.
Although the plant itself looks much like a coffee plant, its berries, which are succulent, do not, but they can be made into jams and jellies.
Native Americans of the west coast of North America had several uses for the plant as food, and used parts of it as a traditional medicinal plant. Several tribes of the indigenous peoples of California ate the fruit fresh or dried.
The Ohlone people used the leaves to treat poison oak dermatitis. The Kumeyaay people had similar uses for its bark. The Kawaiisu used the fruit to treat wounds such as burns. The bark was widely used as a laxative by the indigenous peoples.
Names for the plant in the Konkow language of the Concow tribe include pä and pö.
This plant is cultivated as an ornamental plant by plant nurseries, for planting in native plant, water conserving, and wildlife gardens; in large pots and containers; and in natural landscaping and habitat restoration projects. It is also used for erosion control, and is usually deer resistant. As a pollinator plant it is of special value to native butterflys and bees.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.