Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Prunus ilicifolia Walp.

Frost-hardy, compact, spreading, rounded, evergreen shrub or small tree with holly-like leaves and bowl-shaped, white flowers, to 8mm across, in racemes in summer, followed by spherical, cherry-like red fruit, ripening to blue-black.  To 9m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘This beautiful ornamental evergreen we now have in our English nurseries; it was originally found within the limits of San Francisco, on the North Beach, below Clark’s Point, perched upon the brow of one of the loftiest bluffs of the Bay.  At this point the trees are young and thrifty, shooting up erect and spreading branches, with a dense, dark glossy green foliage-often bent back, enclosing or hiding their twigs from the casual view; the leaves thus arranged alternately, in four ways loosely imbricated, like tiles on a roof, give the young branches a somewhat stiff, columnar appearance. […] From the general appearance of the foliage it naturally suggests to every one, at first sight, the idea of its being a species of Holly!  This mistake we were well-nigh falling into on seeing it for the first time in mid-winter, but tasting (as we are wont to do) soon revealed the true cherry flavour. […] The fruit is by far the largest of any known indigenous kind; specimens are brought to our market one inch and an eighth in diameter, and about one-eighth of pulp: the form is oval, and somewhat pointed, the point turned, to one side; dark purple, or black; the flavour a bitter-sweet, and astringent - not very palatable to most persons.  The Indians, however, crush the fruit, and make a kind of bread, of which they appear to be extremely fond; it is called by the natives Islay.  The stone of this fruit is very large, and in some localities the pulp is meagre and rather dry.’  [D. Kellogg, writing in The Pacific, quoted in FC p.70/1854].

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1857 catalogue only [T.291/1857].


Published Feb 05, 2010 - 01:32 PM | Last updated Jul 30, 2010 - 05:26 PM

Family Rosaceae
Region of origin


  • Cerasus ilicifolius Nutt. ex Hook. & Arn. 
Common Name

Holly-leaved cherry, Islay

Name in the Camden Park Record

Cerasus ilicifolia 

Confidence level high