Garryaceae shrubs are evergreen with tough, opposite leaves. The flowers concentrate in catkin-like inflorescenes hanging from the tree branch ends, and mature to cotton puff wind-blown seeds giving these distinct tress their name.
Pistillate (female) and staminate (male) flowers are on separate plants; pistillate flower are singular within each bract of the catkin chain. The fruit is purple/black, fleshy within a hard casing. Staminate flowers develop in groups of three at each bract.
A popular garden plant, as would be expected of anything this showy.
4 species of Garryaceae are found in the Bay Area; on Montara Mountain, this family is represented by Garrya elliptica (Coast Silk Tassel).
Flowers: Male and female catkins on separate plants; male catkins in long, slender chains of "bells."
Blooms: Januray - February
Leaves: Opposite pairs, dark shiny green above, gray below with dense, microscopic hairs, leathery with wavy edges.
Fruit/Seeds: Tiny dark seeds; in fluffy wind-blown cotton.
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Photo by Bill & Barbara VanderWerf
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Location: Dry trails at higher eleations: Hazelnut Trail in San Pedro Valley County Park.
Status: Native - Common.
Further description & Comment: Evergreen, up to 15 foot tall tree. Generally smooth dark bark, dark-greenish when young.
Athough the flowers bloom in late winter, the dried bracts remain on the tree well into summer as light gray decorations, as in the image to the left.
Silk Tassel is a powerful herbal remedy as a smooth-musle relaxant, useful for treating severe stomach and intestenal cramping, but should be used with caution.
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