Native plants that have been dormant throughout summer and fall come to life during winter months - one of those plants being the colorful Toyon shrub, also known as the Christmas Berry. Toyon can grow up to 30 feet tall on moist slopes or canyon bottoms and produces bright red berries that resemble holly berries. This native plant is a prominent species in the coastal sage scrub community and is a part of drought-adapted chaparral and mixed oak woodland habitats. The brightly colored berries provide a food source for a variety of bird species and some mammals.
For some, the holiday season is not complete unless the halls are decked with festive greenery, which often includes the tradition of hanging mistletoe. During the winter months, mistletoe can be found throughout the Landmarks. Mistletoe is actually a parasite that grows on riparian trees, such as cottonwood, walnut, willow, and sycamore. Commonly found in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains, mistletoe adheres to tree branches in order to absorb nutrients and can grow up to 5 feet long.
Wintertime in Orange County is perfect for exploring the Landmarks, as festive winter flora comes to life. Visitors to the Landmarks will also encounter a variety of bird species that have migrated south for the winter.
Seven-day access trails within the City of Irvine and Newport Beach are currently open for passive recreational use. For more information about seven-day access trails on the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, visit LetsGoOutside.org.